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Ann Ellen Chantler had once been in a place where a lady used to roll a ball under her bed every night, to prove whether anyone were under it or not.
Bobby is a very slow boy; it takes him a long time to learn a thing, but he never forgets afterwards, and if he has a thought in his mind, nothing can put it aside until he has argued it out, and feels that he thoroughly understands it. So when Mriar told us that tale, Bobby said nothing at the time, but after a few minutes, when we were talking of something else, he felt ready.
Mriar,' he said, turning the things over in his pockets with both hands, and looking in Mriar's face in a considering way, while she fastened his collar, Mriar, I want to know what was the use of that?'
Use of what?' said Mriar. 'Don't move your 'ed, Master Bobby'
'The use of that ball,' said Bobby, slowly. When the ball came out at the other side, that didn't prove that there wasn't a man there, you know. He might have seen it rolling, and kicked it on. That's too tight, Mriar.'
Don't move your 'ed, Master Bobby.'
'And if the ball had stayed under, I want to know what the lady would have done. That's too Don't move your 'ed, Master Bobby.'
* Tight,' went on Bobby. •Would she have been too frightened to look under? Would she have had to get into bed, and go to sleep?' *I dont know, Master Bobby.'
It's still too tight, Mriar. Or suppose she went for the butler, and the cook, and some more people, and suppose when they looked, there was nothing. How then, Mriar?'
*I don't know, and I don't care!' said Mriar, getting cross.
You don't seem to know much about it, Mriar,' said Bobby, sternly. "Are you sure it is the truth?'
*'Ow dare you say I'm telling stories, Master Bobby?' cried Mriar, very red in the face.
'I didn't. You know whether it is a story or not, I don't. I think she was a very foolish lady anyway. And am I being hung upon the gallows-tree,' asked Bobby, with Orange and Lemon in his mind ; 'or am I having a clean collar put on ?'
We never rolled a ball under our beds, because, for one thing, nurse would never have allowed it ; but we did believe in the Man-under-the-bed. Mriar told us about him at first, and then I suppose we made ourselves go on with it, because it was interesting to imagine things about him in the daytime. But at night I did so wish that we had not done it. Sometimes Annis used to cry. It is no use pretending that I was not afraid myself, because I was much more afraid than Annis, but at least I should be ashamed to cry half as often as she, who cries for everything. It did not seem to trouble Patricia at all ; but she is so much more strong-minded than I am. She could sit up in the dark, and say quite loudly and comfortably, If you were to be grabbed by the Man-under-the-bed, would his hand be as hot as fire, or as cold as ice? Which do you imagine?' and then lie down and go to sleep immediately. But I could only lie awake and be frightened, and the worst part of all was that I could not tell anybody, because I did not know what I was afraid of.
If Annis was awake she cried, which somehow seems to have more comfort in it than to be silent over it, though I cannot explain why. Once she brought us into a scrape. It was a very uncomfortable night. I was lying awake, and being miserable as usual, besides being much too hot and cramped, and not daring to move. I heard Annis moving a little, so I knew that she was awake on one side of me, but on the other Patricia was snoring away in the most enraging manner. We had each a little bed to ourselves, which makes three, and we could not tell which bed the man was under, but not one of us wanted him under hers.
The blind was drawn down, but there was a little opening at the side, and through it came a light from a lantern in the stableyard, that danced on the wall very horribly. But even worse than that was the nightlight by Paul's cot, that we could just see through the crack of the night-nursery door. Patricia's snoring was a trial, but the light on the wall was worse, and Paul's nightlight was worst of all.
I tried to think of something else, but it was no use, for I began to hear that Annis was crying. I hoped she might fall asleep if I took no notice of her, so I lay still and presently she was quiet. But at last I heard her choking, which showed that she had only dragged the clothes over her head, and it grew, worse and worse, until she shook her bed, and the irons creaked fearfully, and then of course she cried harder than ever, because she thought it was the man underneath. I began to be afraid that nurse would hear, for the door of the day-nursery was not shut tightly, and if she found out why Annis was crying, oh, what a scrape we should be in! I was much more afraid of that than of the man, which showed that he was not anything to be really afraid of, if I had thought of it. I sat up a little and spoke to Annis, which made things worse, because it startled her, into giving a roar under the bedclothes, so I was obliged to get out of bed and run to her.
Oh, Annis, do hush!' I said. “Suppose nurse hears ? How can you be so mean?'
But by that time Annis had cried herself into such a state that she could not stop, and she took no notice of me. I shook her, but it only made the bed crack so tremendously that she thought it was the man coming out, and her sobs began to be bellows.
Patricia ! Patricia !' I said, 'do get up at once and come to Annis!'
• What's the matter?' she said, sleepily.
It is Annis crying dreadfully; she won't stop. She is afraid of the Man-under-the-bed.'
*How foolish !' said Patricia, indignantly. • Tell her to go to sleep this instant !
'She won't; I think she can't. Oh, what a noise she is making! If nurse hears it
Patricia bounded out of bed and flew at Annis.
*If you don't be quiet, and go to sleep this second, you will be the meanest, shabbiest thing we ever
Oh, oh, oh!' roared Annis.
“There! Now you have done it!' I said, giving myself up to despair as the door opened, and nurse came in with the lamp.
' I declare !' she said, setting the lamp down. Miss Helen, what are you doing out of bed? Miss Patricia, too? Do you know what hour it is? Now, Miss Annis, what is all this to-do?'
But it was quite impossible for Annis to explain, and being more frightened than ever, she roared more.
* Let me know what it is this minute!' said nurse, drawing the clothes from her hot face. What is the matter? Arn't you well? Is it anything the matter with your inside ?' For that was always nurse's first thought, and father used to say that our insides were nurse's battle-horses.
Annis sat up, roaring and choking ; she looked round quite helplessly for something to say.
'Is it?' said nurse.
I really do not think that she meant to tell a story, for she had cried until she was quite sick and confused. But Patricia was very much shocked. She threw back her hair from her face, as she does when she is going to be dignified, and drew herself up--and Patricia can look quite as majestic in her nightdress as in her best frock.
• It isn't !' she said, very loudly and distinctly, with her head high in the air. “It isn't her inside, nor her outside. She is frightened of something we told her.'
Nurse was very angry with us—though she would have been a good deal angrier if she had known all about it. She sent Patricia and me back to bed in disgrace, and smoothed Annis's clothes, and tucked her in and talked very severely to her. Then she sat sewing in the room until we were quite quiet, and she thought we were asleep. But I could hear Annis sniffing to herself long afterwards, and Patricia had climbed into bed with her head higher than ever, and turned her back on us.
She was very angry, as we found out next morning. She would not speak to Annis at all, and Annis was a little sulky, and a good deal frightened. After breakfast Patricia began to come round a little. She whispered to us, “I have imagined a new place for Bogy. Such a nice one !'
'Let us go under the table,' said Bobby.
Patricia crawled under first, and settled herself against her favourite leg.
Come in, come in!' she said, trying to be hospitable, and holding up the leaf like the flap of a tent. I took the next leg, and Bobby sat under the drawer, hugging his knees.
'Oh, make room for me!' cried Annis, trying to crawl in, and forgetting that she was considered out of favour.
No,' said Patricia, looking out very magnificently, 'you listen when we imagine things, and then go and get us into a row. Now you must stay outside with Paul.' And she shut down the flap.
Annis instantly opened her mouth for a good cry, and nurse being in a very short mood that morning, we were obliged to drag her under the table, and hold our hands over her mouth until she was either comforted or choked. Bobby and I had to exert ourselves very much to make things comfortable again, and Patricia was inclined to be very grand all the morning.
But once even Patricia herself was frightened in bed. I am quite glad to say it, because it seemed very hard sometimes that she should never mind it at all. Annis happened to be in another room, for she was having measles. It was a very stormy night, and the noises the wind made might have frightened anyone who was brave, so I need not say anything about anyone who was not.
I heard Patricia raise herself softly on her elbow, and whisper, Nell.'Yes,' I said, as well as I could from under the pillow, where I am ashamed to
say that my head was. *There is such a horrid noise at the window, Nell, as if someone were scratching to get in. 0-o-oh, did you hear it then ?'
I think I only moaned a little. Then there was a long dreadful silence, except for the wind outside, and the rustling at the window; and we thought of all the naughty things we had done lately, and wished that we hadn't done them. I was just deciding that I would never pinch Bobby in church again, however much he might pinch me, when Patricia said, in a very shaking voice, ‘Nell, I have been thinking that perhaps it is rather wrong to imagine things about Bogy.'
'I daresay it is,' I agreed.
Yes, suppose we don't,' I said, as thankfully as could be. And feeling more comforted after this, we drew the sheets over our heads, and fell asleep.
But somehow, things do look quite different in the morning, and after breakfast we went under the table to have a game
of imagining just as usual, not caring to look at each other, especially after watching Timothy on a ladder, cutting away the Virginian creeper that the storm had blown down from the wall, and nailing up round the window a long branch of Seven Sisters.
ABOUT SOME TEA PARTIES.
FIRST of all, we had measles. Annis had it first, and we all followed one after another, but we could not help that, whilst it was most foolish and needless of Annis to begin. We were having it for weeks and weeks, and nurse said it was nothing but aggravation to spread it out like that. When we thought one was quite better, another would be ill, and mother and nurse had