Part 3 out of 4
As for their houses, it is no use looking for them, because they
are the exact opposite of our houses. You can see our houses by
day but you can't see them by dark. Well, you can see their
houses by dark, but you can't see them by day, for they are the
colour of night, and I never heard of anyone yet who could see
night in the daytime. This does not mean that they are black,
for night has its colours just as day has, but ever so much
brighter. Their blues and reds and greens are like ours with a
light behind them. The palace is entirely built of many-coloured
glasses, and is quite the loveliest of all royal residences, but
the queen sometimes complains because the common people will peep
in to see what she is doing. They are very inquisitive folk, and
press quite hard against the glass, and that is why their noses
are mostly snubby. The streets are miles long and very twisty,
and have paths on each side made of bright worsted. The birds
used to steal the worsted for their nests, but a policeman has
been appointed to hold on at the other end.
One of the great differences between the fairies and us is that
they never do anything useful. When the first baby laughed for
the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they
all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.
They look tremendously busy, you know, as if they had not a
moment to spare, but if you were to ask them what they are doing,
they could not tell you in the least. They are frightfully
ignorant, and everything they do is make-believe. They have a
postman, but he never calls except at Christmas with his little
box, and though they have beautiful schools, nothing is taught in
them; the youngest child being chief person is always elected
mistress, and when she has called the roll, they all go out for a
walk and never come back. It is a very noticeable thing that, in
fairy families, the youngest is always chief person, and usually
becomes a prince or princess; and children remember this, and
think it must be so among humans also, and that is why they are
often made uneasy when they come upon their mother furtively
putting new frills on the basinette.
You have probably observed that your baby-sister wants to do all
sorts of things that your mother and her nurse want her not to
do: to stand up at sitting-down time, and to sit down at
standing-up time, for instance, or to wake up when she should
fall asleep, or to crawl on the floor when she is wearing her
best frock, and so on, and perhaps you put this down to
naughtiness. But it is not; it simply means that she is doing as
she has seen the fairies do; she begins by following their ways,
and it takes about two years to get her into the human ways. Her
fits of passion, which are awful to behold, and are usually
called teething, are no such thing; they are her natural
exasperation, because we don't understand her, though she is
talking an intelligible language. She is talking fairy. The
reason mothers and nurses know what her remarks mean, before
other people know, as that "Guch" means "Give it to me at once,"
while "Wa" is "Why do you wear such a funny hat?" is because,
mixing so much with babies, they have picked up a little of the
Of late David has been thinking back hard about the fairy tongue,
with his hands clutching his temples, and he has remembered a
number of their phrases which I shall tell you some day if I
don't forget. He had heard them in the days when he was a
thrush, and though I suggested to him that perhaps it is really
bird language he is remembering, he says not, for these phrases
are about fun and adventures, and the birds talked of nothing but
nest- building. He distinctly remembers that the birds used to
go from spot to spot like ladies at shop-windows, looking at the
different nests and saying, "Not my colour, my dear," and "How
would that do with a soft lining?" and "But will it wear?" and
"What hideous trimming!" and so on.
The fairies are exquisite dancers, and that is why one of the
first things the baby does is to sign to you to dance to him and
then to cry when you do it. They hold their great balls in the
open air, in what is called a fairy-ring. For weeks afterward
you can see the ring on the grass. It is not there when they
begin, but they make it by waltzing round and round. Sometimes
you will find mushrooms inside the ring, and these are fairy
chairs that the servants have forgotten to clear away. The
chairs and the rings are the only tell-tale marks these little
people leave behind them, and they would remove even these were
they not so fond of dancing that they toe it till the very moment
of the opening of the gates. David and I once found a fairy-ring
But there is also a way of finding out about the ball before it
takes place. You know the boards which tell at what time the
Gardens are to close to-day. Well, these tricky fairies
sometimes slyly change the board on a ball night, so that it says
the Gardens are to close at six-thirty for instance, instead of
at seven. This enables them to get begun half an hour earlier.
If on such a night we could remain behind in the Gardens, as the
famous Maimie Mannering did, we might see delicious sights,
hundreds of lovely fairies hastening to the ball, the married
ones wearing their wedding-rings round their waists, the
gentlemen, all in uniform, holding up the ladies' trains, and
linkmen running in front carrying winter cherries, which are the
fairy-lanterns, the cloakroom where they put on their silver
slippers and get a ticket for their wraps, the flowers streaming
up from the Baby Walk to look on, and always welcome because they
can lend a pin, the suppertable, with Queen Mab at the head of
it, and behind her chair the Lord Chamberlain, who carries a
dandelion on which he blows when Her Majesty wants to know the
The table-cloth varies according to the seasons, and in May it is
made of chestnut-blossom. The ways the fairy-servants do is
this: The men, scores of them, climb up the trees and shake the
branches, and the blossom falls like snow. Then the lady
servants sweep it together by whisking their skirts until it is
exactly like a table-cloth, and that is how they get their
They have real glasses and real wine of three kinds, namely,
blackthorn wine, berberris wine, and cowslip wine, and the Queen
pours out, but the bottles are so heavy that she just pretends to
pour out. There is bread and butter to begin with, of the size
of a threepenny bit; and cakes to end with, and they are so small
that they have no crumbs. The fairies sit round on mushrooms,
and at first they are very well-behaved and always cough off the
table, and so on, but after a bit they are not so well-behaved
and stick their fingers into the butter, which is got from the
roots of old trees, and the really horrid ones crawl over the
table- cloth chasing sugar or other delicacies with their
tongues. When the Queen sees them doing this she signs to the
servants to wash up and put away, and then everybody adjourns to
the dance, the Queen walking in front while the Lord Chamberlain
walks behind her, carrying two little pots, one of which contains
the juice of wall-flower and the other the juice of Solomon's
Seals. Wall- flower juice is good for reviving dancers who fall
to the ground in a fit, and Solomon's Seals juice is for bruises.
They bruise very easily and when Peter plays faster and faster
they foot it till they fall down in fits. For, as you know
without my telling you, Peter Pan is the fairies' orchestra. He
sits in the middle of the ring, and they would never dream of
having a smart dance nowadays without him. "P. P." is written
on the corner of the invitation-cards sent out by all really good
families. They are grateful little people, too, and at the
princess's coming-of-age ball (they come of age on their second
birthday and have a birthday every month) they gave him the wish
of his heart.
The way it was done was this. The Queen ordered him to kneel,
and then said that for playing so beautifully she would give him
the wish of his heart. Then they all gathered round Peter to
hear what was the wish of his heart, but for a long time he
hesitated, not being certain what it was himself.
"If I chose to go back to mother," he asked at last, "could you
give me that wish?"
Now this question vexed them, for were he to return to his mother
they should lose his music, so the Queen tilted her nose
contemptuously and said, "Pooh, ask for a much bigger wish than
"Is that quite a little wish?" he inquired.
"As little as this," the Queen answered, putting her hands near
"What size is a big wish?" he asked.
She measured it off on her skirt and it was a very handsome
Then Peter reflected and said, "Well, then, I think I shall have
two little wishes instead of one big one."
Of course, the fairies had to agree, though his cleverness rather
shocked them, and he said that his first wish was to go to his
mother, but with the right to return to the Gardens if he found
her disappointing. His second wish he would hold in reserve.
They tried to dissuade him, and even put obstacles in the way.
"I can give you the power to fly to her house," the Queen said,
"but I can't open the door for you.
"The window I flew out at will be open," Peter said confidently.
"Mother always keeps it open in the hope that I may fly back."
"How do you know?" they asked, quite surprised, and, really,
Peter could not explain how he knew.
"I just do know," he said.
So as he persisted in his wish, they had to grant it. The way
they gave him power to fly was this: They all tickled him on the
shoulder, and soon he felt a funny itching in that part and then
up he rose higher and higher and flew away out of the Gardens and
over the house-tops.
It was so delicious that instead of flying straight to his old
home he skimmed away over St. Paul's to the Crystal Palace and
back by the river and Regent's Park, and by the time he reached
his mother's window he had quite made up his mind that his second
wish should be to become a bird.
The window was wide open, just as he knew it would be, and in he
fluttered, and there was his mother lying asleep. Peter alighted
softly on the wooden rail at the foot of the bed and had a good
look at her. She lay with her head on her hand, and the hollow
in the pillow was like a nest lined with her brown wavy hair. He
remembered, though he had long forgotten it, that she always gave
her hair a holiday at night. How sweet the frills of her night-
gown were. He was very glad she was such a pretty mother.
But she looked sad, and he knew why she looked sad. One of her
arms moved as if it wanted to go round something, and he knew
what it wanted to go round.
"Oh, mother," said Peter to himself, "if you just knew who is
sitting on the rail at the foot of the bed."
Very gently he patted the little mound that her feet made, and he
could see by her face that she liked it. He knew he had but to
say "Mother" ever so softly, and she would wake up. They always
wake up at once if it is you that says their name. Then she
would give such a joyous cry and squeeze him tight. How nice
that would be to him, but oh, how exquisitely delicious it would
be to her. That I am afraid is how Peter regarded it. In
returning to his mother he never doubted that he was giving her
the greatest treat a woman can have. Nothing can be more
splendid, he thought, than to have a little boy of your own. How
proud of him they are; and very right and proper, too.
But why does Peter sit so long on the rail, why does he not tell
his mother that he has come back?
I quite shrink from the truth, which is that he sat there in two
minds. Sometimes he looked longingly at his mother, and
sometimes he looked longingly at the window. Certainly it would
be pleasant to be her boy again, but, on the other hand, what
times those had been in the Gardens! Was he so sure that he
would enjoy wearing clothes again? He popped off the bed and
opened some drawers to have a look at his old garments. They
were still there, but he could not remember how you put them on.
The socks, for instance, were they worn on the hands or on the
feet? He was about to try one of them on his hand, when he had a
great adventure. Perhaps the drawer had creaked; at any rate,
his mother woke up, for he heard her say "Peter," as if it was
the most lovely word in the language. He remained sitting on the
floor and held his breath, wondering how she knew that he had
come back. If she said "Peter" again, he meant to cry "Mother"
and run to her. But she spoke no more, she made little moans
only, and when next he peeped at her she was once more asleep,
with tears on her face.
It made Peter very miserable, and what do you think was the first
thing he did? Sitting on the rail at the foot of the bed, he
played a beautiful lullaby to his mother on his pipe. He had
made it up himself out of the way she said "Peter," and he never
stopped playing until she looked happy.
He thought this so clever of him that he could scarcely resist
wakening her to hear her say, "Oh, Peter, how exquisitely you
play." However, as she now seemed comfortable, he again cast
looks at the window. You must not think that he meditated flying
away and never coming back. He had quite decided to be his
mother's boy, but hesitated about beginning to-night. It was the
second wish which troubled him. He no longer meant to make it a
wish to be a bird, but not to ask for a second wish seemed
wasteful, and, of course, he could not ask for it without
returning to the fairies. Also, if he put off asking for his
wish too long it might go bad. He asked himself if he had not
been hardhearted to fly away without saying good-bye to Solomon.
"I should like awfully to sail in my boat just once more," he
said wistfully to his sleeping mother. He quite argued with her
as if she could hear him. "It would be so splendid to tell the
birds of this adventure," he said coaxingly. "I promise to come
back," he said solemnly and meant it, too.
And in the end, you know, he flew away. Twice he came back from
the window, wanting to kiss his mother, but he feared the delight
of it might waken her, so at last he played her a lovely kiss on
his pipe, and then he flew back to the Gardens.
Many nights and even months passed before he asked the fairies
for his second wish; and I am not sure that I quite know why he
delayed so long. One reason was that he had so many good-byes to
say, not only to his particular friends, but to a hundred
favourite spots. Then he had his last sail, and his very last
sail, and his last sail of all, and so on. Again, a number of
farewell feasts were given in his honour; and another comfortable
reason was that, after all, there was no hurry, for his mother
would never weary of waiting for him. This last reason
displeased old Solomon, for it was an encouragement to the birds
to procrastinate. Solomon had several excellent mottoes for
keeping them at their work, such as "Never put off laying to-day,
because you can lay to-morrow," and "In this world there are no
second chances," and yet here was Peter gaily putting off and
none the worse for it. The birds pointed this out to each other,
and fell into lazy habits.
But, mind you, though Peter was so slow in going back to his
mother, he was quite decided to go back. The best proof of this
was his caution with the fairies. They were most anxious that he
should remain in the Gardens to play to them, and to bring this
to pass they tried to trick him into making such a remark as "I
wish the grass was not so wet," and some of them danced out of
time in the hope that he might cry, "I do wish you would keep
time!" Then they would have said that this was his second wish.
But he smoked their design, and though on occasions he began, "I
wish--" he always stopped in time. So when at last he said to
them bravely, "I wish now to go back to mother for ever and
always," they had to tickle his shoulders and let him go.
He went in a hurry in the end because he had dreamt that his
mother was crying, and he knew what was the great thing she cried
for, and that a hug from her splendid Peter would quickly make
her to smile. Oh, he felt sure of it, and so eager was he to be
nestling in her arms that this time he flew straight to the
window, which was always to be open for him.
But the window was closed, and there were iron bars on it, and
peering inside he saw his mother sleeping peacefully with her arm
round another little boy.
Peter called, "Mother! mother!" but she heard him not; in vain he
beat his little limbs against the iron bars. He had to fly back,
sobbing, to the Gardens, and he never saw his dear again. What a
glorious boy he had meant to be to her. Ah, Peter, we who have
made the great mistake, how differently we should all act at the
second chance. But Solomon was right; there is no second chance,
not for most of us. When we reach the window it is Lock-out
Time. The iron bars are up for life.
The Little House
Everybody has heard of the Little House in the Kensington
Gardens, which is the only house in the whole world that the
fairies have built for humans. But no one has really seen it,
except just three or four, and they have not only seen it but
slept in it, and unless you sleep in it you never see it. This
is because it is not there when you lie down, but it is there
when you wake up and step outside.
In a kind of way everyone may see it, but what you see is not
really it, but only the light in the windows. You see the light
after Lock-out Time. David, for instance, saw it quite
distinctly far away among the trees as we were going home from
the pantomime, and Oliver Bailey saw it the night he stayed so
late at the Temple, which is the name of his father's office.
Angela Clare, who loves to have a tooth extracted because then
she is treated to tea in a shop, saw more than one light, she saw
hundreds of them all together, and this must have been the
fairies building the house, for they build it every night and
always in a different part of the Gardens. She thought one of
the lights was bigger than the others, though she was not quite
sure, for they jumped about so, and it might have been another
one that was bigger. But if it was the same one, it was Peter
Pan's light. Heaps of children have seen the light, so that is
nothing. But Maimie Mannering was the famous one for whom the
house was first built.
Maimie was always rather a strange girl, and it was at night that
she was strange. She was four years of age, and in the daytime
she was the ordinary kind. She was pleased when her brother
Tony, who was a magnificent fellow of six, took notice of her,
and she looked up to him in the right way, and tried in vain to
imitate him and was flattered rather than annoyed when he shoved
her about. Also, when she was batting she would pause though the
ball was in the air to point out to you that she was wearing new
shoes. She was quite the ordinary kind in the daytime.
But as the shades of night fell, Tony, the swaggerer, lost his
contempt for Maimie and eyed her fearfully, and no wonder, for
with dark there came into her face a look that I can describe
only as a leary look. It was also a serene look that contrasted
grandly with Tony's uneasy glances. Then he would make her
presents of his favourite toys (which he always took away from
her next morning) and she accepted them with a disturbing smile.
The reason he was now become so wheedling and she so mysterious
was (in brief) that they knew they were about to be sent to bed.
It was then that Maimie was terrible. Tony entreated her not to
do it to-night, and the mother and their coloured nurse
threatened her, but Maimie merely smiled her agitating smile.
And by-and-by when they were alone with their night-light she
would start up in bed crying "Hsh! what was that?" Tony
beseeches her! "It was nothing--don't, Maimie, don't!" and pulls
the sheet over his head. "It is coming nearer!" she cries; "Oh,
look at it, Tony! It is feeling your bed with its horns--it is
boring for you, oh, Tony, oh!" and she desists not until he
rushes downstairs in his combinations, screeching. When they
came up to whip Maimie they usually found her sleeping
tranquilly, not shamming, you know, but really sleeping, and
looking like the sweetest little angel, which seems to me to make
it almost worse.
But of course it was daytime when they were in the Gardens, and
then Tony did most of the talking. You could gather from his
talk that he was a very brave boy, and no one was so proud of it
as Maimie. She would have loved to have a ticket on her saying
that she was his sister. And at no time did she admire him more
than when he told her, as he often did with splendid firmness,
that one day he meant to remain behind in the Gardens after the
gates were closed.
"Oh, Tony," she would say, with awful respect, "but the fairies
will be so angry!"
"I daresay," replied Tony, carelessly.
"Perhaps," she said, thrilling, "Peter Pan will give you a sail
in his boat!"
"I shall make him," replied Tony; no wonder she was proud of him.
But they should not have talked so loudly, for one day they were
overheard by a fairy who had been gathering skeleton leaves, from
which the little people weave their summer curtains, and after
that Tony was a marked boy. They loosened the rails before he
sat on them, so that down he came on the back of his head; they
tripped him up by catching his boot-lace and bribed the ducks to
sink his boat. Nearly all the nasty accidents you meet with in
the Gardens occur because the fairies have taken an ill-will to
you, and so it behoves you to be careful what you say about them.
Maimie was one of the kind who like to fix a day for doing
things, but Tony was not that kind, and when she asked him which
day he was to remain behind in the Gardens after Lock-out he
merely replied, "Just some day;" he was quite vague about which
day except when she asked "Will it be to-day?" and then he could
always say for certain that it would not be to-day. So she saw
that he was waiting for a real good chance.
This brings us to an afternoon when the Gardens were white with
snow, and there was ice on the Round Pond, not thick enough to
skate on but at least you could spoil it for to-morrow by
flinging stones, and many bright little boys and girls were doing
When Tony and his sister arrived they wanted to go straight to
the pond, but their ayah said they must take a sharp walk first,
and as she said this she glanced at the time-board to see when
the Gardens closed that night. It read half-past five. Poor
ayah! she is the one who laughs continuously because there are so
many white children in the world, but she was not to laugh much
more that day.
Well, they went up the Baby Walk and back, and when they returned
to the time-board she was surprised to see that it now read five
o'clock for closing time. But she was unacquainted with the
tricky ways of the fairies, and so did not see (as Maimie and
Tony saw at once) that they had changed the hour because there
was to be a ball to-night. She said there was only time now to
walk to the top of the Hump and back, and as they trotted along
with her she little guessed what was thrilling their little
breasts. You see the chance had come of seeing a fairy ball.
Never, Tony felt, could he hope for a better chance.
He had to feel this, for Maimie so plainly felt it for him. Her
eager eyes asked the question, "Is it to-day?" and he gasped and
then nodded. Maimie slipped her hand into Tony's, and hers was
hot, but his was cold. She did a very kind thing; she took off
her scarf and gave it to him! "In case you should feel cold,"
she whispered. Her face was aglow, but Tony's was very gloomy.
As they turned on the top of the Hump he whispered to her, "I'm
afraid Nurse would see me, so I sha'n't be able to do it."
Maimie admired him more than ever for being afraid of nothing but
their ayah, when there were so many unknown terrors to fear, and
she said aloud, "Tony, I shall race you to the gate," and in a
whisper, "Then you can hide," and off they ran.
Tony could always outdistance her easily, but never had she known
him speed away so quickly as now, and she was sure he hurried
that he might have more time to hide. "Brave, brave!" her doting
eyes were crying when she got a dreadful shock; instead of
hiding, her hero had run out at the gate! At this bitter sight
Maimie stopped blankly, as if all her lapful of darling treasures
were suddenly spilled, and then for very disdain she could not
sob; in a swell of protest against all puling cowards she ran to
St. Govor's Well and hid in Tony's stead.
When the ayah reached the gate and saw Tony far in front she
thought her other charge was with him and passed out. Twilight
came on, and scores and hundreds of people passed out, including
the last one, who always has to run for it, but Maimie saw them
not. She had shut her eyes tight and glued them with passionate
tears. When she opened them something very cold ran up her legs
and up her arms and dropped into her heart. It was the stillness
of the Gardens. Then she heard clang, then from another part
clang, then clang, clang far away. It was the Closing of the
Immediately the last clang had died away Maimie distinctly heard
a voice say, "So that's all right." It had a wooden sound and
seemed to come from above, and she looked up in time to see an
elm tree stretching out its arms and yawning.
She was about to say, "I never knew you could speak!" when a
metallic voice that seemed to come from the ladle at the well
remarked to the elm, "I suppose it is a bit coldish up there?"
and the elm replied, "Not particularly, but you do get numb
standing so long on one leg," and he flapped his arms vigorously
just as the cabmen do before they drive off. Maimie was quite
surprised to see that a number of other tall trees were doing the
same sort of thing, and she stole away to the Baby Walk and
crouched observantly under a Minorca Holly which shrugged its
shoulders but did not seem to mind her.
She was not in the least cold. She was wearing a russet-coloured
pelisse and had the hood over her head, so that nothing of her
showed except her dear little face and her curls. The rest of
her real self was hidden far away inside so many warm garments
that in shape she seemed rather like a ball. She was about forty
round the waist.
There was a good deal going on in the Baby Walk, when Maimie
arrived in time to see a magnolia and a Persian lilac step over
the railing and set off for a smart walk. They moved in a jerky
sort of way certainly, but that was because they used crutches.
An elderberry hobbled across the walk, and stood chatting with
some young quinces, and they all had crutches. The crutches were
the sticks that are tied to young trees and shrubs. They were
quite familiar objects to Maimie, but she had never known what
they were for until to-night.
She peeped up the walk and saw her first fairy. He was a street
boy fairy who was running up the walk closing the weeping trees.
The way he did it was this, he pressed a spring in the trunk and
they shut like umbrellas, deluging the little plants beneath with
snow. "Oh, you naughty, naughty child!" Maimie cried
indignantly, for she knew what it was to have a dripping umbrella
about your ears.
Fortunately the mischievous fellow was out of earshot, but the
chrysanthemums heard her, and they all said so pointedly "Hoity-
toity, what is this?" that she had to come out and show herself.
Then the whole vegetable kingdom was rather puzzled what to do.
"Of course it is no affair of ours," a spindle tree said after
they had whispered together, "but you know quite well you ought
not to be here, and perhaps our duty is to report you to the
fairies; what do you think yourself?"
"I think you should not," Maimie replied, which so perplexed them
that they said petulantly there was no arguing with her. "I
wouldn't ask it of you," she assured them, "if I thought it was
wrong," and of course after this they could not well carry tales.
They then said, "Well-a-day," and "Such is life!" for they can be
frightfully sarcastic, but she felt sorry for those of them who
had no crutches, and she said good-naturedly, "Before I go to the
fairies' ball, I should like to take you for a walk one at a
time; you can lean on me, you know."
At this they clapped their hands, and she escorted them up to the
Baby Walk and back again, one at a time, putting an arm or a
finger round the very frail, setting their leg right when it got
too ridiculous, and treating the foreign ones quite as
courteously as the English, though she could not understand a
word they said.
They behaved well on the whole, though some whimpered that she
had not taken them as far as she took Nancy or Grace or Dorothy,
and others jagged her, but it was quite unintentional, and she
was too much of a lady to cry out. So much walking tired her and
she was anxious to be off to the ball, but she no longer felt
afraid. The reason she felt no more fear was that it was now
night-time, and in the dark, you remember, Maimie was always
They were now loath to let her go, for, "If the fairies see you,"
they warned her, "they will mischief you, stab you to death or
compel you to nurse their children or turn you into something
tedious, like an evergreen oak." As they said this they looked
with affected pity at an evergreen oak, for in winter they are
very envious of the evergreens.
"Oh, la!" replied the oak bitingly, "how deliciously cosy it is
to stand here buttoned to the neck and watch you poor naked
This made them sulky though they had really brought it on
themselves, and they drew for Maimie a very gloomy picture of the
perils that faced her if she insisted on going to the ball.
She learned from a purple filbert that the court was not in its
usual good temper at present, the cause being the tantalising
heart of the Duke of Christmas Daisies. He was an Oriental
fairy, very poorly of a dreadful complaint, namely, inability to
love, and though he had tried many ladies in many lands he could
not fall in love with one of them. Queen Mab, who rules in the
Gardens, had been confident that her girls would bewitch him, but
alas, his heart, the doctor said, remained cold. This rather
irritating doctor, who was his private physician, felt the Duke's
heart immediately after any lady was presented, and then always
shook his bald head and murmured, "Cold, quite cold!" Naturally
Queen Mab felt disgraced, and first she tried the effect of
ordering the court into tears for nine minutes, and then she
blamed the Cupids and decreed that they should wear fools' caps
until they thawed the Duke's frozen heart.
"How I should love to see the Cupids in their dear little fools'
caps!" Maimie cried, and away she ran to look for them very
recklessly, for the Cupids hate to be laughed at.
It is always easy to discover where a fairies' ball is being
held, as ribbons are stretched between it and all the populous
parts of the Gardens, on which those invited may walk to the
dance without wetting their pumps. This night the ribbons were
red and looked very pretty on the snow.
Maimie walked alongside one of them for some distance without
meeting anybody, but at last she saw a fairy cavalcade
approaching. To her surprise they seemed to be returning from
the ball, and she had just time to hide from them by bending her
knees and holding out her arms and pretending to be a garden
chair. There were six horsemen in front and six behind, in the
middle walked a prim lady wearing a long train held up by two
pages, and on the train, as if it were a couch, reclined a lovely
girl, for in this way do aristocratic fairies travel about. She
was dressed in golden rain, but the most enviable part of her was
her neck, which was blue in colour and of a velvet texture, and
of course showed off her diamond necklace as no white throat
could have glorified it. The high-born fairies obtain this
admired effect by pricking their skin, which lets the blue blood
come through and dye them, and you cannot imagine anything so
dazzling unless you have seen the ladies' busts in the jewellers'
Maimie also noticed that the whole cavalcade seemed to be in a
passion, tilting their noses higher than it can be safe for even
fairies to tilt them, and she concluded that this must be another
case in which the doctor had said "Cold, quite cold!"
Well, she followed the ribbon to a place where it became a bridge
over a dry puddle into which another fairy had fallen and been
unable to climb out. At first this little damsel was afraid of
Maimie, who most kindly went to her aid, but soon she sat in her
hand chatting gaily and explaining that her name was Brownie, and
that though only a poor street singer she was on her way to the
ball to see if the Duke would have her.
"Of course," she said, "I am rather plain," and this made Maimie
uncomfortable, for indeed the simple little creature was almost
quite plain for a fairy.
It was difficult to know what to reply.
"I see you think I have no chance," Brownie said falteringly.
"I don't say that," Maimie answered politely, "of course your
face is just a tiny bit homely, but--" Really it was quite
awkward for her.
Fortunately she remembered about her father and the bazaar. He
had gone to a fashionable bazaar where all the most beautiful
ladies in London were on view for half-a-crown the second day,
but on his return home instead of being dissatisfied with
Maimie's mother he had said, "You can't think, my dear, what a
relief it is to see a homely face again."
Maimie repeated this story, and it fortified Brownie
tremendously, indeed she had no longer the slightest doubt that
the Duke would choose her. So she scudded away up the ribbon,
calling out to Maimie not to follow lest the Queen should
But Maimie's curiosity tugged her forward, and presently at the
seven Spanish chestnuts, she saw a wonderful light. She crept
forward until she was quite near it, and then she peeped from
behind a tree.
The light, which was as high as your head above the ground, was
composed of myriads of glow-worms all holding on to each other,
and so forming a dazzling canopy over the fairy ring. There were
thousands of little people looking on, but they were in shadow
and drab in colour compared to the glorious creatures within that
luminous circle who were so bewilderingly bright that Maimie had
to wink hard all the time she looked at them.
It was amazing and even irritating to her that the Duke of
Christmas Daisies should be able to keep out of love for a
moment: yet out of love his dusky grace still was: you could see
it by the shamed looks of the Queen and court (though they
pretended not to care), by the way darling ladies brought forward
for his approval burst into tears as they were told to pass on,
and by his own most dreary face.
Maimie could also see the pompous doctor feeling the Duke's heart
and hear him give utterance to his parrot cry, and she was
particularly sorry for the Cupids, who stood in their fools' caps
in obscure places and, every time they heard that "Cold, quite
cold," bowed their disgraced little heads.
She was disappointed not to see Peter Pan, and I may as well tell
you now why he was so late that night. It was because his boat
had got wedged on the Serpentine between fields of floating ice,
through which he had to break a perilous passage with his trusty
The fairies had as yet scarcely missed him, for they could not
dance, so heavy were their hearts. They forget all the steps
when they are sad and remember them again when they are merry.
David tells me that fairies never say "We feel happy": what they
say is, "We feel dancey."
Well, they were looking very undancey indeed, when sudden
laughter broke out among the onlookers, caused by Brownie, who
had just arrived and was insisting on her right to be presented
to the Duke.
Maimie craned forward eagerly to see how her friend fared, though
she had really no hope; no one seemed to have the least hope
except Brownie herself, who, however, was absolutely confident.
She was led before his grace, and the doctor putting a finger
carelessly on the ducal heart, which for convenience sake was
reached by a little trapdoor in his diamond shirt, had begun to
say mechanically, "Cold, qui--," when he stopped abruptly.
"What's this?" he cried, and first he shook the heart like a
watch, and then put his ear to it.
"Bless my soul!" cried the doctor, and by this time of course the
excitement among the spectators was tremendous, fairies fainting
right and left.
Everybody stared breathlessly at the Duke, who was very much
startled and looked as if he would like to run away. "Good
gracious me!" the doctor was heard muttering, and now the heart
was evidently on fire, for he had to jerk his fingers away from
it and put them in his mouth.
The suspense was awful!
Then in a loud voice, and bowing low, "My Lord Duke," said the
physician elatedly, "I have the honour to inform your excellency
that your grace is in love."
You can't conceive the effect of it. Brownie held out her arms
to the Duke and he flung himself into them, the Queen leapt into
the arms of the Lord Chamberlain, and the ladies of the court
leapt into the arms of her gentlemen, for it is etiquette to
follow her example in everything. Thus in a single moment about
fifty marriages took place, for if you leap into each other's
arms it is a fairy wedding. Of course a clergyman has to be
How the crowd cheered and leapt! Trumpets brayed, the moon came
out, and immediately a thousand couples seized hold of its rays
as if they were ribbons in a May dance and waltzed in wild
abandon round the fairy ring. Most gladsome sight of all, the
Cupids plucked the hated fools' caps from their heads and cast
them high in the air. And then Maimie went and spoiled
everything. She couldn't help it. She was crazy with delight
over her little friend's good fortune, so she took several steps
forward and cried in an ecstasy, "Oh, Brownie, how splendid!"
Everybody stood still, the music ceased, the lights went out, and
all in the time you may take to say "Oh dear!" An awful sense of
her peril came upon Maimie, too late she remembered that she was
a lost child in a place where no human must be between the
locking and the opening of the gates, she heard the murmur of an
angry multitude, she saw a thousand swords flashing for her
blood, and she uttered a cry of terror and fled.
How she ran! and all the time her eyes were starting out of her
head. Many times she lay down, and then quickly jumped up and
ran on again. Her little mind was so entangled in terrors that
she no longer knew she was in the Gardens. The one thing she was
sure of was that she must never cease to run, and she thought she
was still running long after she had dropped in the Figs and gone
to sleep. She thought the snowflakes falling on her face were
her mother kissing her good-night. She thought her coverlet of
snow was a warm blanket, and tried to pull it over her head. And
when she heard talking through her dreams she thought it was
mother bringing father to the nursery door to look at her as she
slept. But it was the fairies.
I am very glad to be able to say that they no longer desired to
mischief her. When she rushed away they had rent the air with
such cries as "Slay her!" "Turn her into something extremely
unpleasant!" and so on, but the pursuit was delayed while they
discussed who should march in front, and this gave Duchess
Brownie time to cast herself before the Queen and demand a boon.
Every bride has a right to a boon, and what she asked for was
Maimie's life. "Anything except that," replied Queen Mab
sternly, and all the fairies chanted "Anything except that." But
when they learned how Maimie had befriended Brownie and so
enabled her to attend the ball to their great glory and renown,
they gave three huzzas for the little human, and set off, like an
army, to thank her, the court advancing in front and the canopy
keeping step with it. They traced Maimie easily by her
footprints in the snow.
But though they found her deep in snow in the Figs, it seemed
impossible to thank Maimie, for they could not waken her. They
went through the form of thanking her, that is to say, the new
King stood on her body and read her a long address of welcome,
but she heard not a word of it. They also cleared the snow off
her, but soon she was covered again, and they saw she was in
danger of perishing of cold.
"Turn her into something that does not mind the cold," seemed a
good suggestion of the doctor's, but the only thing they could
think of that does not mind cold was a snowflake. "And it might
melt," the Queen pointed out, so that idea had to be given up.
A magnificent attempt was made to carry her to a sheltered spot,
but though there were so many of them she was too heavy. By this
time all the ladies were crying in their handkerchiefs, but
presently the Cupids had a lovely idea. "Build a house round
her," they cried, and at once everybody perceived that this was
the thing to do; in a moment a hundred fairy sawyers were among
the branches, architects were running round Maimie, measuring
her; a bricklayer's yard sprang up at her feet, seventy-five
masons rushed up with the foundation stone and the Queen laid it,
overseers were appointed to keep the boys off, scaffoldings were
run up, the whole place rang with hammers and chisels and turning
lathes, and by this time the roof was on and the glaziers were
putting in the windows.
The house was exactly the size of Maimie and perfectly lovely.
One of her arms was extended and this had bothered them for a
second, but they built a verandah round it, leading to the front
door. The windows were the size of a coloured picture-book and
the door rather smaller, but it would be easy for her to get out
by taking off the roof. The fairies, as is their custom, clapped
their hands with delight over their cleverness, and they were all
so madly in love with the little house that they could not bear
to think they had finished it. So they gave it ever so many
little extra touches, and even then they added more extra
For instance, two of them ran up a ladder and put on a chimney.
"Now we fear it is quite finished," they sighed. But no, for
another two ran up the ladder, and tied some smoke to the
"That certainly finishes it," they cried reluctantly.
"Not at all," cried a glow-worm, "if she were to wake without
seeing a night-light she might be frightened, so I shall be her
"Wait one moment," said a china merchant, "and I shall make you a
Now alas, it was absolutely finished.
Oh, dear no!
"Gracious me," cried a brass manufacturer, "there's no handle on
the door," and he put one on.
An ironmonger added a scraper and an old lady ran up with a door-
mat. Carpenters arrived with a water-butt, and the painters
insisted on painting it.
Finished at last!
"Finished! how can it be finished," the plumber demanded
scornfully, "before hot and cold are put in?" and he put in hot
and cold. Then an army of gardeners arrived with fairy carts and
spades and seeds and bulbs and forcing-houses, and soon they had
a flower garden to the right of the verandah and a vegetable
garden to the left, and roses and clematis on the walls of the
house, and in less time than five minutes all these dear things
were in full bloom.
Oh, how beautiful the little house was now! But it was at last
finished true as true, and they had to leave it and return to the
dance. They all kissed their hands to it as they went away, and
the last to go was Brownie. She stayed a moment behind the
others to drop a pleasant dream down the chimney.
All through the night the exquisite little house stood there in
the Figs taking care of Maimie, and she never knew. She slept
until the dream was quite finished and woke feeling deliciously
cosy just as morning was breaking from its egg, and then she
almost fell asleep again, and then she called out, "Tony," for
she thought she was at home in the nursery. As Tony made no
answer, she sat up, whereupon her head hit the roof, and it
opened like the lid of a box, and to her bewilderment she saw all
around her the Kensington Gardens lying deep in snow. As she was
not in the nursery she wondered whether this was really herself,
so she pinched her cheeks, and then she knew it was herself, and
this reminded her that she was in the middle of a great
adventure. She remembered now everything that had happened to
her from the closing of the gates up to her running away from the
fairies, but however, she asked herself, had she got into this
funny place? She stepped out by the roof, right over the garden,
and then she saw the dear house in which she had passed the
night. It so entranced her that she could think of nothing else.
"Oh, you darling, oh, you sweet, oh, you love!" she cried.
Perhaps a human voice frightened the little house, or maybe it
now knew that its work was done, for no sooner had Maimie spoken
than it began to grow smaller; it shrank so slowly that she could
scarce believe it was shrinking, yet she soon knew that it could
not contain her now. It always remained as complete as ever, but
it became smaller and smaller, and the garden dwindled at the
same time, and the snow crept closer, lapping house and garden
up. Now the house was the size of a little dog's kennel, and now
of a Noah's Ark, but still you could see the smoke and the
door-handle and the roses on the wall, every one complete. The
glow-worm light was waning too, but it was still there.
"Darling, loveliest, don't go!" Maimie cried, falling on her
knees, for the little house was now the size of a reel of thread,
but still quite complete. But as she stretched out her arms
imploringly the snow crept up on all sides until it met itself,
and where the little house had been was now one unbroken expanse
Maimie stamped her foot naughtily, and was putting her fingers to
her eyes, when she heard a kind voice say, "Don't cry, pretty
human, don't cry," and then she turned round and saw a beautiful
little naked boy regarding her wistfully. She knew at once that
he must be Peter Pan.
Maimie felt quite shy, but Peter knew not what shy was.
"I hope you have had a good night," he said earnestly.
"Thank you," she replied, "I was so cosy and warm. But you"--and
she looked at his nakedness awkwardly--"don't you feel the least
Now cold was another word Peter had forgotten, so he answered, "I
think not, but I may be wrong: you see I am rather ignorant. I
am not exactly a boy, Solomon says I am a Betwixt-and-Between."
"So that is what it is called," said Maimie thoughtfully.
"That's not my name," he explained, "my name is Peter Pan."
"Yes, of course," she said, "I know, everybody knows."
You can't think how pleased Peter was to learn that all the
people outside the gates knew about him. He begged Maimie to
tell him what they knew and what they said, and she did so. They
were sitting by this time on a fallen tree; Peter had cleared off
the snow for Maimie, but he sat on a snowy bit himself.
"Squeeze closer," Maimie said.
"What is that?" he asked, and she showed him, and then he did it.
They talked together and he found that people knew a great deal
about him, but not everything, not that he had gone back to his
mother and been barred out, for instance, and he said nothing of
this to Maimie, for it still humiliated him.
"Do they know that I play games exactly like real boys?" he asked
very proudly. "Oh, Maimie, please tell them!" But when he
revealed how he played, by sailing his hoop on the Round Pond,
and so on, she was simply horrified.
"All your ways of playing," she said with her big eyes on him,
"are quite, quite wrong, and not in the least like how boys
Poor Peter uttered a little moan at this, and he cried for the
first time for I know not how long. Maimie was extremely sorry
for him, and lent him her handkerchief, but he didn't know in the
least what to do with it, so she showed him, that is to say, she
wiped her eyes, and then gave it back to him, saying "Now you do
it," but instead of wiping his own eyes he wiped hers, and she
thought it best to pretend that this was what she had meant.
She said, out of pity for him, "I shall give you a kiss if you
like," but though he once knew he had long forgotten what kisses
are, and he replied, "Thank you," and held out his hand, thinking
she had offered to put something into it. This was a great shock
to her, but she felt she could not explain without shaming him,
so with charming delicacy she gave Peter a thimble which happened
to be in her pocket, and pretended that it was a kiss. Poor
little boy! he quite believed her, and to this day he wears it on
his finger, though there can be scarcely anyone who needs a
thimble so little. You see, though still a tiny child, it was
really years and years since he had seen his mother, and I
daresay the baby who had supplanted him was now a man with
But you must not think that Peter Pan was a boy to pity rather
than to admire; if Maimie began by thinking this, she soon found
she was very much mistaken. Her eyes glistened with admiration
when he told her of his adventures, especially of how he went to
and fro between the island and the Gardens in the Thrush's Nest.
"How romantic," Maimie exclaimed, but it was another unknown
word, and he hung his head thinking she was despising him.
"I suppose Tony would not have done that?" he said very humbly.
"Never, never!" she answered with conviction, "he would have been
"What is afraid?" asked Peter longingly. He thought it must be
some splendid thing. "I do wish you would teach me how to be
afraid, Maimie," he said.
"I believe no one could teach that to you," she answered
adoringly, but Peter thought she meant that he was stupid. She
had told him about Tony and of the wicked thing she did in the
dark to frighten him (she knew quite well that it was wicked),
but Peter misunderstood her meaning and said, "Oh, how I wish I
was as brave as Tony."
It quite irritated her. "You are twenty thousand times braver
than Tony," she said, "you are ever so much the bravest boy I
He could scarcely believe she meant it, but when be did believe
he screamed with joy.
"And if you want very much to give me a kiss," Maimie said, "you
can do it."
Very reluctantly Peter began to take the thimble off his finger.
He thought she wanted it back.
"I don't mean a kiss," she said hurriedly, "I mean a thimble."
"What's that?" Peter asked.
"It's like this," she said, and kissed him.
"I should love to give you a thimble," Peter said gravely, so he
gave her one. He gave her quite a number of thimbles, and then a
delightful idea came into his head! "Maimie," he said, "will you
Now, strange to tell, the same idea had come at exactly the same
time into Maimie's head. "I should like to," she answered, "but
will there be room in your boat for two?"
"If you squeeze close," he said eagerly.
"Perhaps the birds would be angry?"
He assured her that the birds would love to have her, though I am
not so certain of it myself. Also that there were very few birds
in winter. "Of course they might want your clothes," he had to
admit rather falteringly.
She was somewhat indignant at this.
"They are always thinking of their nests," he said
apologetically, "and there are some bits of you"--he stroked the
fur on her pelisse--"that would excite them very much."
"They sha'n't have my fur," she said sharply.
"No," he said, still fondling it, however, "no! Oh, Maimie," he
said rapturously, "do you know why I love you? It is because you
are like a beautiful nest."
Somehow this made her uneasy. "I think you are speaking more
like a bird than a boy now," she said, holding back, and indeed
he was even looking rather like a bird. "After all," she said,
"you are only a Betwixt-and-Between." But it hurt him so much
that she immediately added, "It must be a delicious thing to be."
"Come and be one then, dear Maimie," he implored her, and they
set off for the boat, for it was now very near Open-Gate time.
"And you are not a bit like a nest," he whispered to please her.
"But I think it is rather nice to be like one," she said in a
woman's contradictory way. "And, Peter, dear, though I can't
give them my fur, I wouldn't mind their building in it. Fancy a
nest in my neck with little spotty eggs in it! Oh, Peter, how
But as they drew near the Serpentine, she shivered a little, and
said, "Of course I shall go and see mother often, quite often.
It is not as if I was saying good-bye for ever to mother, it is
not in the least like that."
"Oh, no," answered Peter, but in his heart he knew it was very
like that, and he would have told her so had he not been in a
quaking fear of losing her. He was so fond of her, he felt he
could not live without her. "She will forget her mother in time,
and be happy with me," he kept saying to himself, and he hurried
her on, giving her thimbles by the way.
But even when she had seen the boat and exclaimed ecstatically
over its loveliness, she still talked tremblingly about her
mother. "You know quite well, Peter, don't you," she said, "that
I wouldn't come unless I knew for certain I could go back to
mother whenever I want to? Peter, say it!"
He said it, but he could no longer look her in the face.
"If you are sure your mother will always want you," he added
"The idea of mother's not always wanting me!" Maimie cried, and
her face glistened.
"If she doesn't bar you out," said Peter huskily.
"The door," replied Maimie, "will always, always be open, and
mother will always be waiting at it for me."
"Then," said Peter, not without grimness, "step in, if you feel
so sure of her," and he helped Maimie into the Thrush's Nest.
"But why don't you look at me?" she asked, taking him by the arm.
Peter tried hard not to look, he tried to push off, then he gave
a great gulp and jumped ashore and sat down miserably in the
She went to him. "What is it, dear, dear Peter?" she said,
"Oh, Maimie," he cried, "it isn't fair to take you with me if you
think you can go back. Your mother"--he gulped again--"you don't
know them as well as I do."
And then he told her the woful story of how he had been barred
out, and she gasped all the time. "But my mother," she said, "my
"Yes, she would," said Peter, "they are all the same. I daresay
she is looking for another one already."
Maimie said aghast, "I can't believe it. You see, when you went
away your mother had none, but my mother has Tony, and surely
they are satisfied when they have one."
Peter replied bitterly, "You should see the letters Solomon gets
from ladies who have six."
Just then they heard a grating creak, followed by creak, creak,
all round the Gardens. It was the Opening of the Gates, and
Peter jumped nervously into his boat. He knew Maimie would not
come with him now, and he was trying bravely not to cry. But
Maimie was sobbing painfully.
"If I should be too late," she called in agony, "oh, Peter, if
she has got another one already!"
Again he sprang ashore as if she had called him back. "I shall
come and look for you to-night," he said, squeezing close, "but
if you hurry away I think you will be in time."
Then he pressed a last thimble on her sweet little mouth, and
covered his face with his hands so that he might not see her go.
"Dear Peter!" she cried.
"Dear Maimie!" cried the tragic boy.
She leapt into his arms, so that it was a sort of fairy wedding,
and then she hurried away. Oh, how she hastened to the gates!
Peter, you may be sure, was back in the Gardens that night as
soon as Lock-out sounded, but he found no Maimie, and so he knew
she had been in time. For long he hoped that some night she
would come back to him; often he thought he saw her waiting for
him by the shore of the Serpentine as his bark drew to land, but
Maimie never went back. She wanted to, but she was afraid that
if she saw her dear Betwixt-and-Between again she would linger
with him too long, and besides the ayah now kept a sharp eye on
her. But she often talked lovingly of Peter and she knitted a
kettle- holder for him, and one day when she was wondering what
Easter present he would like, her mother made a suggestion.
"Nothing," she said thoughtfully, "would be so useful to him as a
"He could ride on it," cried Maimie, "and play on his pipe at the
"Then," her mother asked, "won't you give him your goat, the one
you frighten Tony with at night?"
"But it isn't a real goat," Maimie said.
"It seems very real to Tony," replied her mother.
"It seems frightfully real to me too," Maimie admitted, "but how
could I give it to Peter?"
Her mother knew a way, and next day, accompanied by Tony (who was
really quite a nice boy, though of course he could not compare),
they went to the Gardens, and Maimie stood alone within a fairy
ring, and then her mother, who was a rather gifted lady, said,
"My daughter, tell me, if you can,
What have you got for Peter Pan?"
To which Maimie replied,
"I have a goat for him to ride,
Observe me cast it far and wide."
She then flung her arms about as if she were sowing seed, and
turned round three times.
Next Tony said,
"If P. doth find it waiting here,
Wilt ne'er again make me to fear?"
And Maimie answered,
"By dark or light I fondly swear
Never to see goats anywhere."
She also left a letter to Peter in a likely place, explaining
what she had done, and begging him to ask the fairies to turn the
goat into one convenient for riding on. Well, it all happened
just as she hoped, for Peter found the letter, and of course
nothing could be easier for the fairies than to turn the goat
into a real one, and so that is how Peter got the goat on which
he now rides round the Gardens every night playing sublimely on
his pipe. And Maimie kept her promise and never frightened Tony
with a goat again, though I have heard that she created another
animal. Until she was quite a big girl she continued to leave
presents for Peter in the Gardens (with letters explaining how
humans play with them), and she is not the only one who has done
this. David does it, for instance, and he and I know the
likeliest place for leaving them in, and we shall tell you if you
like, but for mercy's sake don't ask us before Porthos, for were
he to find out the place he would take every one of them.
Though Peter still remembers Maimie he is become as gay as ever,
and often in sheer happiness he jumps off his goat and lies
kicking merrily on the grass. Oh, he has a joyful time! But he
has still a vague memory that he was a human once, and it makes
him especially kind to the house-swallows when they revisit the
island, for house-swallows are the spirits of little children who
have died. They always build in the eaves of the houses where
they lived when they were humans, and sometimes they try to fly
in at a nursery window, and perhaps that is why Peter loves them
best of all the birds.
And the little house? Every lawful night (that is to say, every
night except ball nights) the fairies now build the little house
lest there should be a human child lost in the Gardens, and Peter
rides the marshes looking for lost ones, and if he finds them he
carries them on his goat to the little house, and when they wake
up they are in it and when they step out they see it. The
fairies build the house merely because it is so pretty, but Peter
rides round in memory of Maimie and because he still loves to do
just as he believes real boys would do.
But you must not think that, because somewhere among the trees
the little house is twinkling, it is a safe thing to remain in
the Gardens after Lock-out Time. If the bad ones among the
fairies happen to be out that night they will certainly mischief
you, and even though they are not, you may perish of cold and
dark before Peter Pan comes round. He has been too late several
times, and when he sees he is too late he runs back to the
Thrush's Nest for his paddle, of which Maimie had told him the
true use, and he digs a grave for the child and erects a little
tombstone and carves the poor thing's initials on it. He does
this at once because he thinks it is what real boys would do, and
you must have noticed the little stones and that there are always
two together. He puts them in twos because it seems less lonely.
I think that quite the most touching sight in the Gardens is the
two tombstones of Walter Stephen Matthews and Phoebe Phelps. They
stand together at the spot where the parishes of Westminster St.
Mary's is said to meet the parish of Paddington. Here Peter
found the two babes, who had fallen unnoticed from their
perambulators, Phoebe aged thirteen months and Walter probably
still younger, for Peter seems to have felt a delicacy about
putting any age on his stone. They lie side by side, and the
simple inscriptions read
| | | |
| W | | 13a. |
| | | P.P. |
| St. M | | 1841 |
| | | |
David sometimes places white flowers on these two innocent
But how strange for parents, when they hurry into the Gardens at
the opening of the gates looking for their lost one, to find the
sweetest little tombstone instead. I do hope that Peter is not
too ready with his spade. It is all rather sad.
David and I had a tremendous adventure. It was this, he passed
the night with me. We had often talked of it as a possible
thing, and at last Mary consented to our having it.
The adventure began with David's coming to me at the unwonted
hour of six P.M., carrying what looked like a packet of
sandwiches, but proved to be his requisites for the night done up
in a neat paper parcel. We were both so excited that, at the
moment of greeting, neither of us could be apposite to the
occasion in words, so we communicated our feelings by signs; as
thus, David half sat down in a place where there was no chair,
which is his favourite preparation for being emphatic, and is
borrowed, I think, from the frogs, and we then made the
extraordinary faces which mean, "What a tremendous adventure!"
We were to do all the important things precisely as they are done
every evening at his own home, and so I am in a puzzle to know
how it was such an adventure to David. But I have now said
enough to show you what an adventure it was to me.
For a little while we played with my two medals, and, with the
delicacy of a sleeping companion, David abstained on this
occasion from asking why one of them was not a Victoria Cross.
He is very troubled because I never won the Victoria Cross, for
it lowers his status in the Gardens. He never says in the
Gardens that I won it, but he fights any boy of his year who says
I didn't. Their fighting consists of challenging each other.
At twenty-five past six I turned on the hot water in the bath,
and covertly swallowed a small glass of brandy. I then said,
"Half- past six; time for little boys to be in bed." I said it
in the matter-of-fact voice of one made free of the company of
parents, as if I had said it often before, and would have to say
it often again, and as if there was nothing particularly
delicious to me in hearing myself say it. I tried to say it in
And David was deceived. To my exceeding joy he stamped his
little foot, and was so naughty that, in gratitude, I gave him
five minutes with a matchbox. Matches, which he drops on the
floor when lighted, are the greatest treat you can give David;
indeed, I think his private heaven is a place with a roaring
Then I placed my hand carelessly on his shoulder, like one a
trifle bored by the dull routine of putting my little boys to
bed, and conducted him to the night nursery, which had lately
been my private chamber. There was an extra bed in it tonight,
very near my own, but differently shaped, and scarcely less
conspicuous was the new mantel-shelf ornament: a tumbler of milk,
with a biscuit on top of it, and a chocolate riding on the
biscuit. To enter the room without seeing the tumbler at once
was impossible. I had tried it several times, and David saw and
promptly did his frog business, the while, with an indescribable
emotion, I produced a night-light from my pocket and planted it
in a saucer on the wash- stand.
David watched my preparations with distasteful levity, but anon
made a noble amend by abruptly offering me his foot as if he had
no longer use for it, and I knew by intuition that he expected me
to take off his boots. I took them off with all the coolness of
an old hand, and then I placed him on my knee and removed his
blouse. This was a delightful experience, but I think I remained
wonderfully calm until I came somewhat too suddenly to his little
braces, which agitated me profoundly.
I cannot proceed in public with the disrobing of David.
Soon the night nursery was in darkness, but for the glimmer from
the night-light, and very still save when the door creaked as a
man peered in at the little figure on the bed. However softly I
opened the door, an inch at a time, his bright eyes turned to me
at once, and he always made the face which means, "What a
"Are you never to fall asleep, David?" I always said.
"When are you coming to bed?" he always replied, very brave but
in a whisper, as if he feared the bears and wolves might have
him. When little boys are in bed there is nothing between them
and bears and wolves but the night-light.
I returned to my chair to think, and at last he fell asleep with
his face to the wall, but even then I stood many times at the
Long after I had gone to bed a sudden silence filled the chamber,
and I knew that David had awaked. I lay motionless, and, after
what seemed a long time of waiting, a little far-away voice said
in a cautious whisper, "Irene!"
"You are sleeping with me to-night, you know, David," I said.
"I didn't know," he replied, a little troubled but trying not to
be a nuisance.
"You remember you are with me?" I asked.
After a moment's hesitation he replied, "I nearly remember," and
presently he added very gratefully, as if to some angel who had
whispered to him, "I remember now."
I think he had nigh fallen asleep again when he stirred and said,
"Is it going on now?"
Perhaps this disturbed him, for by-and-by I had to inquire, "You
are not frightened, are you?"
"Am I not?" he answered politely, and I knew his hand was groping
in the darkness, so I put out mine and he held on tightly to one
"I am not frightened now," he whispered.
"And there is nothing else you want?"
"Is there not?" he again asked politely. "Are you sure there's
not?" he added.
"What can it be, David?"
"I don't take up very much room," the far-away voice said.
"Why, David," said I, sitting up, "do you want to come into my
"Mother said I wasn't to want it unless you wanted it first," he
"It is what I have been wanting all the time," said I, and then
without more ado the little white figure rose and flung itself at
me. For the rest of the night he lay on me and across me, and
sometimes his feet were at the bottom of the bed and sometimes on
the pillow, but he always retained possession of my finger, and
occasionally he woke me to say that he was sleeping with me. I
had not a good night. I lay thinking.
Of this little boy, who, in the midst of his play while I
undressed him, had suddenly buried his head on my knees.
Of the woman who had been for him who could be sufficiently
Of David's dripping little form in the bath, and how when I
essayed to catch him he had slipped from my arms like a trout.
Of how I had stood by the open door listening to his sweet
breathing, had stood so long that I forgot his name and called
David and Porthos Compared
But Mary spoilt it all, when I sent David back to her in the
morning, by inquiring too curiously into his person and
discovering that I had put his combinations on him with the
buttons to the front. For this I wrote her the following
insulting letter. When Mary does anything that specially annoys
me I send her an insulting letter. I once had a photograph taken
of David being hanged on a tree. I sent her that. You can't
think of all the subtle ways of grieving her I have. No woman
with the spirit of a crow would stand it.
"Dear Madam [I wrote], It has come to my knowledge that when you
walk in the Gardens with the boy David you listen avidly for
encomiums of him and of your fanciful dressing of him by passers-
by, storing them in your heart the while you make vain pretence
to regard them not: wherefore lest you be swollen by these very
small things I, who now know David both by day and by night, am
minded to compare him and Porthos the one with the other, both in
this matter and in other matters of graver account. And touching
this matter of outward show, they are both very lordly, and
neither of them likes it to be referred to, but they endure in
different ways. For David says 'Oh, bother!' and even at times
hits out, but Porthos droops his tail and lets them have their
say. Yet is he extolled as beautiful and a darling ten times for
the once that David is extolled.
"The manners of Porthos are therefore prettier than the manners
of David, who when he has sent me to hide from him behind a tree
sometimes comes not in search, and on emerging tamely from my
concealment I find him playing other games entirely forgetful of
my existence. Whereas Porthos always comes in search. Also if
David wearies of you he scruples not to say so, but Porthos, in
like circumstances, offers you his paw, meaning 'Farewell,' and
to bearded men he does this all the time (I think because of a
hereditary distaste for goats), so that they conceive him to be
enamoured of them when he is only begging them courteously to go.
Thus while the manners of Porthos are more polite it may be
argued that those of David are more efficacious.
"In gentleness David compares ill with Porthos. For whereas the
one shoves and has been known to kick on slight provocation, the
other, who is noisily hated of all small dogs by reason of his
size, remonstrates not, even when they cling in froth and fury to
his chest, but carries them along tolerantly until they drop off
from fatigue. Again, David will not unbend when in the company
of babies, expecting them unreasonably to rise to his level, but
contrariwise Porthos, though terrible to tramps, suffers all
things of babies, even to an exploration of his mouth in an
attempt to discover what his tongue is like at the other end.
The comings and goings of David are unnoticed by perambulators,
which lie in wait for the advent of Porthos. The strong and
wicked fear Porthos but no little creature fears him, not the
hedgehogs he conveys from place to place in his mouth, nor the
sparrows that steal his straw from under him.
"In proof of which gentleness I adduce his adventure with the
rabbit. Having gone for a time to reside in a rabbit country
Porthos was elated to discover at last something small that ran
from him, and developing at once into an ecstatic sportsman he
did pound hotly in pursuit, though always over-shooting the mark
by a hundred yards or so and wondering very much what had become
of the rabbit. There was a steep path, from the top of which the
rabbit suddenly came into view, and the practice of Porthos was
to advance up it on tiptoe, turning near the summit to give me a
knowing look and then bounding forward. The rabbit here did
something tricky with a hole in the ground, but Porthos tore
onwards in full faith that the game was being played fairly, and
always returned panting and puzzling but glorious.
"I sometimes shuddered to think of his perplexity should he catch
the rabbit, which however was extremely unlikely; nevertheless he
did catch it, I know not how, but presume it to have been another
than the one of which he was in chase. I found him with it, his
brows furrowed in the deepest thought. The rabbit, terrified but
uninjured, cowered beneath him. Porthos gave me a happy look and
again dropped into a weighty frame of mind. 'What is the next
thing one does?' was obviously the puzzle with him, and the
position was scarcely less awkward for the rabbit, which several
times made a move to end this intolerable suspense. Whereupon
Porthos immediately gave it a warning tap with his foot, and
again fell to pondering. The strain on me was very great.
"At last they seemed to hit upon a compromise. Porthos looked
over his shoulder very self-consciously, and the rabbit at first
slowly and then in a flash withdrew. Porthos pretended to make a
search for it, but you cannot think how relieved he looked. He
even tried to brazen out his disgrace before me and waved his
tail appealingly. But he could not look me in the face, and when
he saw that this was what I insisted on he collapsed at my feet
and moaned. There were real tears in his eyes, and I was
touched, and swore to him that he had done everything a dog could
do, and though he knew I was lying he became happy again. For so
long as I am pleased with him, ma'am, nothing else greatly
matters to Porthos. I told this story to David, having first
extracted a promise from him that he would not think the less of
Porthos, and now I must demand the same promise of you. Also, an
admission that in innocence of heart, for which David has been
properly commended, he can nevertheless teach Porthos nothing,
but on the contrary may learn much from him.
"And now to come to those qualities in which David excels over
Porthos--the first is that he is no snob but esteems the girl
Irene (pretentiously called his nurse) more than any fine lady,
and envies every ragged boy who can hit to leg. Whereas Porthos
would have every class keep its place, and though fond of going
down into the kitchen, always barks at the top of the stairs for
a servile invitation before he graciously descends. Most of the
servants in our street have had the loan of him to be
photographed with, and I have but now seen him stalking off for
that purpose with a proud little housemaid who is looking up to
him as if he were a warrior for whom she had paid a shilling.
"Again, when David and Porthos are in their bath, praise is due
to the one and must be withheld from the other. For David, as I
have noticed, loves to splash in his bath and to slip back into
it from the hands that would transfer him to a towel. But
Porthos stands in his bath drooping abjectly like a shamed figure
cut out of some limp material.
"Furthermore, the inventiveness of David is beyond that of
Porthos, who cannot play by himself, and knows not even how to
take a solitary walk, while David invents playfully all day long.
Lastly, when David is discovered of some offence and expresses
sorrow therefor, he does that thing no more for a time, but looks
about him for other offences, whereas Porthos incontinently
repeats his offence, in other words, he again buries his bone in
the backyard, and marvels greatly that I know it, although his
nose be crusted with earth.
"Touching these matters, therefore, let it be granted that David
excels Porthos; and in divers similar qualities the one is no
more than a match for the other, as in the quality of curiosity;
for, if a parcel comes into my chambers Porthos is miserable
until it is opened, and I have noticed the same thing of David.
"Also there is the taking of medicine. For at production of the
vial all gaiety suddenly departs from Porthos and he looks the
other way, but if I say I have forgotten to have the vial
refilled he skips joyfully, yet thinks he still has a right to a
chocolate, and when I remarked disparagingly on this to David he
looked so shy that there was revealed to me a picture of a
certain lady treating him for youthful maladies.
"A thing to be considered of in both is their receiving of
punishments, and I am now reminded that the girl Irene (whom I
take in this matter to be your mouthpiece) complains that I am
not sufficiently severe with David, and do leave the chiding of
him for offences against myself to her in the hope that he will
love her less and me more thereby. Which we have hotly argued in
the Gardens to the detriment of our dignity. And I here say that
if I am slow to be severe to David, the reason thereof is that I
dare not be severe to Porthos, and I have ever sought to treat
the one the same with the other.
"Now I refrain from raising hand or voice to Porthos because his
great heart is nigh to breaking if he so much as suspects that
all is not well between him and me, and having struck him once
some years ago never can I forget the shudder which passed
through him when he saw it was I who had struck, and I shall
strike him, ma'am, no more. But when he is detected in any
unseemly act now, it is my stern practice to cane my writing
table in his presence, and even this punishment is almost more
than he can bear. Wherefore if such chastisement inflicted on
David encourages him but to enter upon fresh trespasses (as the
girl Irene avers), the reason must be that his heart is not like
unto that of the noble Porthos.
"And if you retort that David is naturally a depraved little boy,
and so demands harsher measure, I have still my answer, to wit,
what is the manner of severity meted out to him at home? And
lest you should shuffle in your reply I shall mention a notable
passage that has come to my ears.
"As thus, that David having heard a horrid word in the street,
uttered it with unction in the home. That the mother threatened
corporal punishment, whereat the father tremblingly intervened.
That David continuing to rejoice exceedingly in his word, the
father spoke darkly of a cane, but the mother rushed between the
combatants. That the problematical chastisement became to David
an object of romantic interest. That this darkened the happy
home. That casting from his path a weeping mother, the goaded
father at last dashed from the house yelling that he was away to
buy a cane. That he merely walked the streets white to the lips
because of the terror David must now be feeling. And that when
he returned, it was David radiant with hope who opened the door
and then burst into tears because there was no cane. Truly,
ma'am, you are a fitting person to tax me with want of severity.
Rather should you be giving thanks that it is not you I am
comparing with Porthos.
"But to make an end of this comparison, I mention that Porthos is
ever wishful to express gratitude for my kindness to him, so that
looking up from my book I see his mournful eyes fixed upon me
with a passionate attachment, and then I know that the well-nigh
unbearable sadness which comes into the face of dogs is because
they cannot say Thank you to their masters. Whereas David takes
my kindness as his right. But for this, while I should chide him
I cannot do so, for of all the ways David has of making me to
love him the most poignant is that he expects it of me as a
matter of course. David is all for fun, but none may plumb the
depths of Porthos. Nevertheless I am most nearly doing so when I
lie down beside him on the floor and he puts an arm about my
neck. On my soul, ma'am, a protecting arm. At such times it is
as if each of us knew what was the want of the other.
"Thus weighing Porthos with David it were hard to tell which is
the worthier. Wherefore do you keep your boy while I keep my
dog, and so we shall both be pleased."
We had been together, we three, in my rooms, David telling me
about the fairy language and Porthos lolling on the sofa
listening, as one may say. It is his favourite place of a dull
day, and under him were some sheets of newspaper, which I spread
there at such times to deceive my housekeeper, who thinks dogs
should lie on the floor.
Fairy me tribber is what you say to the fairies when you want
them to give you a cup of tea, but it is not so easy as it looks,
for all the r's should be pronounced as w's, and I forget this so
often that David believes I should find difficulty in making
"What would you say," he asked me, "if you wanted them to turn
you into a hollyhock?" He thinks the ease with which they can
turn you into things is their most engaging quality.
The answer is Fairy me lukka, but though he had often told me
this I again forgot the lukka.
"I should never dream," I said (to cover my discomfiture), "of
asking them to turn me into anything. If I was a hollyhock I
should soon wither, David."
He himself had provided me with this objection not long before,
but now he seemed to think it merely silly. "Just before the
time to wither begins," he said airily, "you say to them Fairy me
Fairy me bola means "Turn me back again," and David's discovery
made me uncomfortable, for I knew he had hitherto kept his
distance of the fairies mainly because of a feeling that their
conversions are permanent.
So I returned him to his home. I send him home from my rooms
under the care of Porthos. I may walk on the other side unknown
to them, but they have no need of me, for at such times nothing
would induce Porthos to depart from the care of David. If anyone
addresses them he growls softly and shows the teeth that crunch
bones as if they were biscuits. Thus amicably the two pass on to
Mary's house, where Porthos barks his knock-and-ring bark till
the door is opened. Sometimes he goes in with David, but on this
occasion he said good-bye on the step. Nothing remarkable in
this, but he did not return to me, not that day nor next day nor
in weeks and months. I was a man distraught; and David wore his
knuckles in his eyes. Conceive it, we had lost our dear Porthos--
at least--well--something disquieting happened. I don't quite know
what to think of it even now. I know what David thinks.
However, you shall think as you choose.
My first hope was that Porthos had strolled to the Gardens and
got locked in for the night, and almost as soon as Lock-out was
over I was there to make inquiries. But there was no news of
Porthos, though I learned that someone was believed to have spent
the night in the Gardens, a young gentleman who walked out
hastily the moment the gates were opened. He had said nothing,
however, of having seen a dog. I feared an accident now, for I
knew no thief could steal him, yet even an accident seemed
incredible, he was always so cautious at crossings; also there
could not possibly have been an accident to Porthos without there
being an accident to something else.
David in the middle of his games would suddenly remember the
great blank and step aside to cry. It was one of his qualities
that when he knew he was about to cry he turned aside to do it
and I always respected his privacy and waited for him. Of course
being but a little boy he was soon playing again, but his sudden
floods of feeling, of which we never spoke, were dear to me in
those desolate days.
We had a favourite haunt, called the Story-seat, and we went back
to that, meaning not to look at the grass near it where Porthos
used to squat, but we could not help looking at it sideways, and
to our distress a man was sitting on the acquainted spot. He
rose at our approach and took two steps toward us, so quick that
they were almost jumps, then as he saw that we were passing
indignantly I thought I heard him give a little cry.
I put him down for one of your garrulous fellows who try to lure
strangers into talk, but next day, when we found him sitting on
the Story-seat itself, I had a longer scrutiny of him. He was
dandiacally dressed, seemed to tell something under twenty years
and had a handsome wistful face atop of a heavy, lumbering,
almost corpulent figure, which however did not betoken
inactivity; for David's purple hat (a conceit of his mother's of
which we were both heartily ashamed) blowing off as we neared him
he leapt the railings without touching them and was back with it
in three seconds; only instead of delivering it straightway he
seemed to expect David to chase him for it.
You have introduced yourself to David when you jump the railings
without touching them, and William Paterson (as proved to be his
name) was at once our friend. We often found him waiting for us
at the Story-seat, and the great stout fellow laughed and wept
over our tales like a three-year-old. Often he said with
extraordinary pride, "You are telling the story to me quite as
much as to David, ar'n't you?" He was of an innocence such as
you shall seldom encounter, and believed stories at which even
David blinked. Often he looked at me in quick alarm if David
said that of course these things did not really happen, and
unable to resist that appeal I would reply that they really did.
I never saw him irate except when David was still sceptical, but
then he would say quite warningly "He says it is true, so it must
be true." This brings me to that one of his qualities, which at
once gratified and pained me, his admiration for myself. His
eyes, which at times had a rim of red, were ever fixed upon me
fondly except perhaps when I told him of Porthos and said that
death alone could have kept him so long from my side. Then
Paterson's sympathy was such that he had to look away. He was
shy of speaking of himself so I asked him no personal questions,
but concluded that his upbringing must have been lonely, to
account for his ignorance of affairs, and loveless, else how
could he have felt such a drawing to me?
I remember very well the day when the strange, and surely
monstrous, suspicion first made my head tingle. We had been
blown, the three of us, to my rooms by a gust of rain; it was
also, I think, the first time Paterson had entered them. "Take
the sofa, Mr. Paterson," I said, as I drew a chair nearer to the
fire, and for the moment my eyes were off him. Then I saw that,
before sitting down on the sofa, he was spreading the day's paper
over it. "Whatever makes you do that?" I asked, and he started
like one bewildered by the question, then went white and pushed
the paper aside.
David had noticed nothing, but I was strangely uncomfortable,
and, despite my efforts at talk, often lapsed into silence, to be
roused from it by a feeling that Paterson was looking at me
covertly. Pooh! what vapours of the imagination were these. I
blew them from me, and to prove to myself, so to speak, that they
were dissipated, I asked him to see David home. As soon as I was
alone, I flung me down on the floor laughing, then as quickly
jumped up and was after them, and very sober too, for it was come
to me abruptly as an odd thing that Paterson had set off without
asking where David lived.
Seeing them in front of me, I crossed the street and followed.
They were walking side by side rather solemnly, and perhaps
nothing remarkable happened until they reached David's door. I
say perhaps, for something did occur. A lady, who has several
pretty reasons for frequenting the Gardens, recognised David in
the street, and was stooping to address him, when Paterson did
something that alarmed her. I was too far off to see what it
was, but had he growled "Hands off!" she could not have scurried
away more precipitately. He then ponderously marched his charge
to the door, where, assuredly, he did a strange thing. Instead
of knocking or ringing, he stood on the step and called out
sharply, "Hie, hie, hie!" until the door was opened.
The whimsy, for it could be nothing more, curtailed me of my
sleep that night, and you may picture me trying both sides of the
I recalled other queer things of Paterson, and they came back to
me charged with new meanings. There was his way of shaking
hands. He now did it in the ordinary way, but when first we knew
him his arm had described a circle, and the hand had sometimes
missed mine and come heavily upon my chest instead. His walk,
again, might more correctly have been called a waddle.
There were his perfervid thanks. He seldom departed without
thanking me with an intensity that was out of proportion to the
little I had done for him. In the Gardens, too, he seemed ever
to take the sward rather than the seats, perhaps a wise
preference, but he had an unusual way of sitting down. I can
describe it only by saying that he let go of himself and went
down with a thud.
I reverted to the occasion when he lunched with me at the Club.
We had cutlets, and I noticed that he ate his in a somewhat
finicking manner; yet having left the table for a moment to
consult the sweets-card, I saw, when I returned, that there was
now no bone on his plate. The waiters were looking at him rather
David was very partial to him, but showed it in a somewhat
singular manner, used to pat his head, for instance. I
remembered, also, that while David shouted to me or Irene to
attract our attention, he usually whistled to Paterson, he could
not explain why.
These ghosts made me to sweat in bed, not merely that night, but
often when some new shock brought them back in force, yet,
unsupported, they would have disturbed me little by day. Day,
however, had its reflections, and they came to me while I was
shaving, that ten minutes when, brought face to face with the
harsher realities of life, we see things most clearly as they
are. Then the beautiful nature of Paterson loomed offensively,
and his honest eyes insulted over me. No one come to nigh twenty
years had a right to such faith in his fellow-creatures. He
could not backbite, nor envy, nor prevaricate, nor jump at mean
motives for generous acts. He had not a single base story about
women. It all seemed inhuman.
What creatures we be! I was more than half ashamed of Paterson's
faith in me, but when I saw it begin to shrink I fought for it.
An easy task, you may say, but it was a hard one, for gradually a
change had come over the youth. I am now arrived at a time when
the light-heartedness had gone out of him; he had lost his zest
for fun, and dubiety sat in the eyes that were once so certain.
He was not doubtful of me, not then, but of human nature in
general; that whilom noble edifice was tottering. He mixed with
boys in the Gardens; ah, mothers, it is hard to say, but how
could he retain his innocence when he had mixed with boys? He
heard your talk of yourselves, and so, ladies, that part of the
edifice went down. I have not the heart to follow him in all his
discoveries. Sometimes he went in flame at them, but for the
most part he stood looking on, bewildered and numbed, like one
He saw all, as one fresh to the world, before he had time to
breathe upon the glass. So would your child be, madam, if born
with a man's powers, and when disillusioned of all else, he would
cling for a moment longer to you, the woman of whom, before he
saw you, he had heard so much. How you would strive to cheat
him, even as I strove to hide my real self from Paterson, and
still you would strive as I strove after you knew the game was
The sorrowful eyes of Paterson stripped me bare. There were days
when I could not endure looking at him, though surely I have long
ceased to be a vain man. He still met us in the Gardens, but for
hours he and I would be together without speaking. It was so
upon the last day, one of those innumerable dreary days when
David, having sneezed the night before, was kept at home in
flannel, and I sat alone with Paterson on the Story-seat. At
last I turned to address him. Never had we spoken of what
chained our tongues, and I meant only to say now that we must go,
for soon the gates would close, but when I looked at him I saw
that he was more mournful than ever before; he shut his eyes so
tightly that a drop of blood fell from them.
"It was all over, Paterson, long ago," I broke out harshly, "why
do we linger?"
He beat his hands together miserably, and yet cast me appealing
looks that had much affection in them.
"You expected too much of me," I told him, and he bowed his head.
"I don't know where you brought your grand ideas of men and women
from. I don't want to know," I added hastily.
"But it must have been from a prettier world than this," I said:
"are you quite sure that you were wise in leaving it?"
He rose and sat down again. "I wanted to know you," he replied
slowly, "I wanted to be like you."
"And now you know me," I said, "do you want to be like me still?
I am a curious person to attach oneself to, Paterson; don't you
see that even David often smiles at me when he thinks he is
unobserved. I work very hard to retain that little boy's love;
but I shall lose him soon; even now I am not what I was to him;
in a year or two at longest, Paterson, David will grow out of
The poor fellow shot out his hand to me, but "No," said I, "you
have found me out. Everybody finds me out except my dog, and
that is why the loss of him makes such a difference to me. Shall
we go, Paterson?"
He would not come with me, and I left him on the seat; when I was
far away I looked back, and he was still sitting there forlornly.
For long I could not close my ears that night: I lay listening, I
knew not what for. A scare was on me that made me dislike the
dark, and I switched on the light and slept at last. I was
roused by a great to-do in the early morning, servants knocking
excitedly, and my door opened, and the dear Porthos I had mourned
so long tore in. They had heard his bark, but whence he came no
He was in excellent condition, and after he had leaped upon me
from all points I flung him on the floor by a trick I know, and
lay down beside him, while he put his protecting arm round me and
looked at me with the old adoring eyes.
But we never saw Paterson again. You may think as you choose.
Wise children always choose a mother who was a shocking flirt in
her maiden days, and so had several offers before she accepted
their fortunate papa. The reason they do this is because every
offer refused by their mother means another pantomime to them.
You see you can't trust to your father's taking you to the
pantomime, but you can trust to every one of the poor frenzied
gentlemen for whom that lady has wept a delicious little tear on
her lovely little cambric handkerchief. It is pretty (but
dreadfully affecting) to see them on Boxing Night gathering
together the babies of their old loves. Some knock at but one
door and bring a hansom, but others go from street to street in
private 'buses, and even wear false noses to conceal the
sufferings you inflict upon them as you grew more and more like
your sweet cruel mamma.
So I took David to the pantomime, and I hope you follow my
reasoning, for I don't. He went with the fairest anticipations,
pausing on the threshold to peer through the hole in the little
house called "Pay Here," which he thought was Red Riding Hood's
residence, and asked politely whether he might see her, but they
said she had gone to the wood, and it was quite true, for there
she was in the wood gathering a stick for her grandmother's fire.
She sang a beautiful song about the Boys and their dashing ways,
which flattered David considerably, but she forgot to take away
the stick after all. Other parts of the play were not so nice,
but David thought it all lovely, he really did.
Yet he left the place in tears. All the way home he sobbed in
the darkest corner of the growler, and if I tried to comfort him
he struck me.
The clown had done it, that man of whom he expected things so
fair. He had asked in a loud voice of the middling funny
gentleman (then in the middle of a song) whether he thought Joey
would be long in coming, and when at last Joey did come he
screamed out, "How do you do, Joey!" and went into convulsions of
Joey and his father were shadowing a pork-butcher's shop,
pocketing the sausages for which their family has such a fatal
weakness, and so when the butcher engaged Joey as his assistant
there was soon not a sausage left. However, this did not matter,
for there was a box rather like an ice-cream machine, and you put
chunks of pork in at one end and turned a handle and they came