Read CHAPTER VII - A STORY-TELLING GAME of Milly and Olly, free online book, by Mrs. Humphry Ward, on

When Aunt Emma was safely settled, cap and all, in one of the drawing-room arm-chairs, it seemed to the children as if the rain and the gray sky did not matter nearly so much as they had done half an hour before.  In the first place, her coming made something new and interesting to think about; and in the second place, they felt quite sure that Aunt Emma hadn’t brought her little black bag into the drawing-room with her for nothing.  If only her cap had been in it, why of course she would have left it in mother’s bedroom.  But here it was in her lap, with her two hands folded tight over it, as if it contained something precious!  How very puzzling and interesting!

However, for a long time it seemed as if Aunt Emma had nothing at all to say about her bag.  She began to tell them about her drive ­how in two places the horse had to go splashing through the water, and how once, when they were crossing a little river that ran across the road, the water came so far up the wheels that “I put my head out of the window,” said Aunt Emma, “and said to my old coachman, ’Now, John, if it’s going to get any deeper than this, you’d better turn him round and go home, for I’m an old woman, not a fish, and I can’t swim.  Of course, if the horse can swim with the carriage behind him it’s all right, but I have my doubts.’  Now John, my dears, has been with me a great many years, and he knows very well that I’m rather a nervous old woman.  It’s very sad, but it is so.  Don’t you be nervous when you’re old people.  So all he said was ‘All right, ma’am.  Bless you, he can swim like a trout.’  And crack went the whip, splash went the water!  It seemed to me it was just going to come in under the door, when, lo and behold! there we were safe and sound on dry ground again.  But whether my old horse swam through or walked through I can’t tell you.  I like to believe he swam, because I’m so fond of him, and one likes to believe the creatures one loves can do clever things.”

“I’ll ask John when he comes to take you away, Aunt Emma,” said Olly.  “I don’t believe horses can swim when they’re in a carriage.”

“You’re a matter-of-fact monkey,” said Aunt Emma.  “Dear me, what’s that?”

For a loud squeak had suddenly startled the children, who were now looking about them everywhere in vain, to find out where it came from.  Squeak! again.  This time the voice certainly came from near Aunt Emma’s chair, but there was nothing to be seen.

“What a strange house you live in,” said Aunt Emma, with a perfectly grave face.  “You must have caught a magician somehow.  That’s a magician’s squeak.”

Again came the noise!

“I know, I know!” shouted Olly.  “It’s Aunt Emma’s bag!  I’m sure it came out of the bag.”

“My bag!” ­holding it up and looking at it.  “Now does it look like a bag that squeaks?  It’s a perfectly well-behaved bag, and never did such a thing in its life.”

“I know, Aunt Emma,” said Olly, dancing round her in great excitement.  “You’ve got the parrot in there!”

“Well now,” said Aunt Emma.  “This is really serious.  If you think I am such a cruel old woman as to shut up a poor poll-parrot in a bag, there’s no help for it, we must open the bag.  But it’s a very curious bag ­I wouldn’t stand too near it if I were you.”

Click! went the fastening of the bag, and out jumped ­what do you think?  Why, the very biggest frog that was ever seen, in this part of the world at any rate, a green speckled frog, that hopped on to Aunt Emma’s knee, and then on to the floor, where it went hopping and squeaking along the carpet, till all of a sudden, when it got to the door, it turned over on its back, and lay there quite quiet with its legs in the air.

The children followed it with looks half of horror, half of amazement.

“What is it, Aunt Emma?  Is it alive?” asked Milly, jumping on to a chair as the frog came near her, and drawing her little skirts tight round her legs, while Olly went cautiously after it, with his hands on his knees, one step at a time.

“You’d better ask it,” said Aunt Emma, who had at last begun to laugh a little, as if it was impossible to keep grave any longer.  “I’m sure it looks very peaceable just now, poor thing.”

So the children crept up to it, and examined it closely.  Yes, it was a green speckled frog, but what it was made of, and whether it was alive, and if it was not alive how it managed to hop and squeak ­these were the puzzles.

“Take hold of it, Milly,” said Mr. Norton, who had just come up from his work, and was standing laughing near the door.  “Turn it over on its legs again.”

“No, I’ll turn it,” cried Olly, making a dash, and turning it over in a great hurry, keeping his legs and feet well out of the way.  Hop! squeak! there it was off again, right down the room with the children after it, till it suddenly came up against a table leg, and once more turned over on its back and lay quite still.

“Oh, Aunt Emma, is it a toy?” asked Milly, who now felt brave enough to take it up and look at it.

“Well, Milly, I believe so ­a very lively one.  Bring it here, and I’ll tell you something about it.”

So the children brought it very cautiously, as if they were not quite sure what it would do next, and then Aunt Emma explained to them that she had once paid a visit to a shop in London where Japanese toys ­toys made in the country of Japan ­far away on the other side of the world ­were sold, and that there she found master froggy.

“And there never was such a toy as froggy for a wet day,” said Aunt Emma.  “I have tried him on all sorts of boys and girls, and he never fails.  He’s as good a cure for a cross face as a poultice is for a sore finger.  But, Milly, listen!  I declare there’s something else going on in my bag.  I really think, my dear bag, you might be quiet now that you have got rid of froggy!  What can all this chattering be about?  Sh! sh!” and Aunt Emma held up her finger at the children, while she held the bag up to her ear, and listened carefully.  Olly was almost beside himself with excitement, but Milly had got his little brown hands tight in hers for fear he should make a jump at the bag.  “Yes,” said Aunt Emma.  “It’s just as I thought.  The bag declares it’s not his fault at all, but that if I will give him such noisy creatures to carry I must take the consequences.  He says there’s a whole family now inside him, making such a noise he can hardly hear himself speak.  It’s enough, he says, to drive a respectable bag mad, and he must blow up if it goes on.  Dear me!  I must look into this.  Milly, come here!”

Milly came near, and Aunt Emma opened the bag solemnly.

“Now, Milly, I’ll hold it for fear it should take it into its poor head to blow up, and you put your hand in and see what you can find.”

So Milly put her hand in, feeling a good deal excited as to what might happen ­and what do you think she brought out?  A whole handful of the most delicious dolls: ­cardboard dolls of all sorts and kinds, like those in mother’s drawer at home; paper dolls, mamma dolls, little boy dolls and little girl dolls, baby dolls and nurse dolls; dolls in suits and dolls in frocks; dolls in hats and dolls in nightgowns; a papa in trousers and a mamma in a magnificent blue dress with flounces and a train; a nurse in white cap and apron and the most bewitching baby doll you ever saw, with a frilled paper cap that slipped on and off, and a white frock with pink ribbons.  And the best of these dolls was, that each of them had a piece of cardboard fastened on behind and a little bit of cardboard to stand on, so that when you spread out the piece behind they stood up as naturally as possible, and looked as if they were going to talk to you.

“Oh, Aunt Emma, dear Aunt Emma!” cried Milly, beside herself with delight as she spread them all out in her lap.  “They’re just like mother’s at home, mother’s that you made for her when she was a little girl ­only ever so many more.”

“Well, Milly, I made mother’s for her long ago, when it rained for days and days without stopping, and she had grown tired of pretty nearly everything and everybody indoors; and now I have been spending part of these rainy days in making a new set for mother’s little girl.  There, dear little woman, I think you must have given me a kiss for each of them by this time.  Suppose you try and make them stand up.”

“But, Aunt Emma,” said Olly, who was busy examining the mysterious bag ­how could the dolls talk? they’re only paper.”

“I know nothing about it,” answered Aunt Emma, rescuing the bag, and putting it safely under her chair.  “You might ask the bag ­but it wouldn’t answer you.  Magical bags never do talk except to their masters or mistresses.”

So Olly had to puzzle it out for himself while he played with the Japanese frog.  That was an extraordinary frog!  You should have seen nurse’s start when Olly hid himself in the passage and sent the frog hopping and squeaking through the open door of the night nursery, where nurse was sitting sewing; and as for cook, when the creature came flopping over her kitchen floor she very nearly spoilt the hash she was making for dinner by dropping a whole pepper-box into the middle of it!  There was no end to the fun to be got out of froggy, and Olly amused himself with it the whole of the morning, while Milly went through long stories with her dolls upstairs, helped every now and then by Aunt Emma, who sat knitting and talking to mother.

At dinner the children had to sit quiet while Mr. and Mrs. Norton and Aunt Emma talked.  Father and mother had been almost as much cheered up by Aunt Emma’s coming as the children themselves, and now the dinner-table was lively with pleasant talk; talk about books, and talk about pictures, and talk about foreign places, and talk about the mountains and the people living near Ravensnest, many of whom mother had known when she was a little girl.  Milly, who was old enough to listen, could only understand a little bit here and there; but there was always Aunt Emma’s friendly gentle face to look at, and her soft old hand in its black mitten, to slip her own little fingers into; while Olly was so taken up with the prospects of the black-currant pudding which he had seen cook making in the morning, and the delight of it when it came, that it seemed no trouble to him to sit still.

As for the rain, there was not much difference.  Perhaps there were a few breaks in the clouds, and it might be beating a little less heavily on the glass conservatory outside the dining-room, still, on the whole, the weather was much the same as it had been.  It was wonderful to see how little notice the children had taken of it since Aunt Emma came, and when they escorted her upstairs after dinner, they quite forgot to rush to the window and look out, as they had been doing the last three days at every possible opportunity.

The children got her safe into a chair, and then Olly brought a stool to one side of her, and Milly brought a stool to the other.

Now, can you remember about old Mother Quiverquake?” said Olly, resting his little sunburnt chin on Aunt Emma’s knee, and looking up to her with eager eyes.

“Well, I daresay I shall begin to remember about her presently; but suppose, children, we have a story-telling game.  We’ll tell stories ­you and Olly, father, mother, and everybody.  That’s much fairer than that one person should do all the telling.”

“We couldn’t,” said Milly, shaking her head gravely, “we are only little children.  Little children can’t make up stories.”

“Suppose little children try,” said mother.  “I think Aunt Emma’s is an excellent plan.  Now, father, you’ll have to tell one too.”

“Father’s lazy,” said Mr. Norton, coming out from behind his newspaper.  “But, perhaps, if you all of you tell very exciting stories you may stir him up.”

“Oh, father!” cried Olly, who had a vivid remembrance of his father’s stories, though they only came very seldom, “tell us about the rat with three tails, and the dog that walked on its nose.”

“Oh dear, no!” said Mr. Norton, “those won’t do for such a grand story-telling as this.  I must think of some story which is all long words and good children.”

Don’t father,” said Milly, imploringly, “it’s ever so much nicer when they get into scrapes, you know, and tumble down, and all that.”

“Who’s to begin?” said Aunt Emma.  “I think mother had better begin.  Afterwards it will be your turn, Olly; then father, then Milly, and then me.”

“I don’t believe I’ve got a scrap of a story in my head,” said Mrs. Norton.  “It’s weeks since I caught one last.”

“Then look here, Olly,” said Aunt Emma, “I’ll tell you what to do.  Go up gently behind mother, and kiss her three times on the top of the head.  That’s the way to send the stories in.  Mother will soon begin to feel one fidgeting inside her head after that.”

So Olly went gently up behind his mother, climbed on a stool at the back of her chair, and kissed her softly three times at the back of her head.  Mrs. Norton lay still for a few moments after the kisses, with closed eyes.

“Ah!” she said at last.  “Now I think I’ve caught one.  But it’s a very little one, poor little thing.  And yet, strange to say, though it’s very little, it’s very old.  Now, children, you must be kind to my story.  I caught him first a great many years ago in an old book, but I am afraid you will hardly care for him as much as I did.  Well, once upon a time there was a great king.”

“Was it King Arthur, mother?” interrupted Olly, eagerly.

“Oh no! this king lived in a different country altogether.  He lived in a beautiful hot country over the sea, called Spain.”

“Oh, mother! a hot country!” protested Milly, “that’s where the rain goes to.”

“Well, Milly, I don’t think you know any more about it, except that you tell the rain to go there.  Don’t you know by this time that the rain never does what it’s told?  Really, very little rain goes to Spain, and in some parts of the country the people would be very glad indeed if we could send them some of the rain we don’t want at Ravensnest.  But now, you mustn’t interrupt me, or I shall forget my story ­Well there was once a king who lived in a very hot part of Spain, where they don’t have much rain, and where it hardly ever snows or freezes.  And this king had a beautiful wife, whom he loved very much.  But, unluckily, this beautiful wife had one great fault.  She was always wishing for the most unreasonable and impossible things, and though the king was always trying to get her what she wanted she was never satisfied, and every day she seemed to grow more and more discontented and exacting.  At last, one day in the winter, a most extraordinary thing happened.  A shower of snow fell in Cordova, which was the name of the town where the king and queen lived, and it whitened the hills all around the town, so that they looked as if somebody had been dusting white sugar over them.  Now snow was hardly ever seen in Cordova, and the people in the town wondered at it, and talked about it a great deal.  But after she had looked at it a little-while the queen began to cry bitterly.  None of her ladies could comfort her, nor would she tell any of them what was the matter.  There she sat at her window, weeping, till the king came to see her.  When he came he could not imagine what she was crying about, and begged her to tell him why.  ‘I am weeping,’ she said, sobbing all the time, ’because the hills ­are not always ­covered with snow.  See how pretty they look!  And yet ­I have never, till now, seen them look like that.  If you really loved me, you would manage some way or other that it should snow once a year at any rate.’

“‘But how can I make it snow?’ cried the king in great trouble, because she would go on weeping and weeping, and spoiling her pretty eyes.

“‘I’m sure I don’t know,’ said the queen, crossly, ’but you can’t love me a bit, or you’d certainly try.’

“Well, the king thought and thought, and at last he hit upon a beautiful plan.  He sent into all parts of Spain to buy almond trees, and planted them on the hills all round the town.  Now the almond tree, as you know, has a lovely pinky-white blossom, so when the next spring arrived all these thousands of almond trees came out into bloom all over the hills round Cordova, so that they looked at a distance as if they were covered with white snow.  And for once the queen was delighted, and could not help saying a nice ‘Thank you’ to the king for all the trouble he had taken to please her.  But it was not very long before she grew discontented again, and began once more to wish for all kinds of ridiculous things.  One day she was sitting at her window, and she saw some ragged little children playing by the river that ran round the palace.  They were dabbling in the mud at the side, sticking their little bare feet into it, or scooping up pieces which they rolled into balls and threw at one another.  The queen watched them for some time, and at last she began to weep bitterly.  One of her maidens ran and told the king that the queen was weeping, and he came in a great hurry to see what was the matter.

“‘Just look at those children down there!’ said the queen, sobbing and pointing to them.  ’Did you ever see anybody so happy?  Why can’t I have mud to dabble in too, and why can’t I take off my shoes and stockings, and amuse myself like the children do, instead of being so dull and stuck-up all day long?’

“‘Because it isn’t proper for queens to dabble in the mud,’ said the poor king in great perplexity, for he didn’t at all like the idea of his beautiful queen dabbling in the mud with the little ragged children.

“‘That’s just like you,’ said the queen, beginning to cry faster than ever,’ you never do anything to please me.  What’s the good of being proper?  What’s the good of being a queen at all?’

“This made the king very unhappy, and again he thought and thought, till at last he hit upon a plan.  He ordered a very large shallow bath of white marble to be made in the palace-garden.  Then he poured into it all kinds of precious stones, and chips of sweet-smelling wood, besides a thousand cartloads of rose-leaves and a thousand cartloads of orange flowers.  All these he ordered to be stirred up together with a great ivory spoon, till they made a kind of wonderful mud, and then he had the bath filled up with scented water.

“‘Now then,’ he said to the queen, when he had brought her down to look at it, ’you may take off your shoes and stockings and paddle about in this mud as much as you like.’  You may imagine that this was a very pleasant kind of mud to dabble in, and the queen and her ladies amused themselves with it immensely for some time.  But nothing could keep this tiresome queen amused for long together, and in about a fortnight she had grown quite tired of her wonderful bath.  It seemed as if the king’s pains had been all thrown away.  She grew cross and discontented again, and her ladies began to say to each other, ’What will she wish for next, I wonder?  The king might as well try to drink up the sea as try to get her all she wants.’  At last, one day, when she and her ladies were walking near the palace, they met a shepherdess driving a flock of sheep up into the hills.  The shepherdess looked so pretty and bright in her red petticoat and tall yellow cap, that the queen stopped to speak to her.

“‘Where are you going, pretty maiden, with your woolly white sheep?’ she asked.

“‘I am going up to the hills,’ said the shepherdess.  ’Now the sun has scorched up the fields down below we must take our sheep up to the cool hills, where the grass is still fresh and green.  Good-day, good-day, the sheep are going so fast I cannot wait.’  So on she tripped, singing and calling to her sheep, who came every now and then to rub their soft coats against her, as if they loved her.  The queen looked after her, and her face began to pucker up.

“‘Why am I not a shepherdess?’ she exclaimed, bursting into tears.  ’I hate being a queen!  I never sang as merrily as that little maiden in all my life.  I must and will be a shepherdess, and drive sheep up into the mountain, or I shall die!”

“And all that night the foolish queen sat at her window crying, and when the morning came she had made herself look quite old and ugly.  When the king came to see her he was dreadfully troubled, and begged her to tell him what was the matter now.

“‘I want to be a shepherdess, and drive sheep up into the mountains,’ sobbed the queen.  ’Why should the little shepherdess girls look always so happy and merry, while I am dying of dulness?’

“The king thought it was very unkind of her to say she was dying of dulness when he had taken so much trouble to get her all she wanted; but he knew it was no good talking to her while she was in such a temper.  So all he said was: 

“’How can I turn you into a shepherdess?  These shepherdesses stay out all night with their sheep on the hills, and live on water and a crust of bread.  How would you like that?’

“‘Of course I-should like it,’ said the queen, ’anything for a change.  Besides, nothing could be nicer than staying out of doors these lovely nights.  And as for food, you know very well that I am never hungry here, and that it doesn’t matter in the least to me what I eat!’

“‘Well,’ said the king, ’you shall go up to the hills, if you promise to take your ladies with you, and if you will let me send a tent to shelter you at night, and some servants to look after you.’

“‘As if that would give me any pleasure!’ said the queen, ’to be followed about and waited upon is just what I detest.  I will go alone; just like that pretty little shepherdess, if I go at all.’

“But the king declared that nothing would induce him to let her go alone.  So the queen set to work to cry, and she cried for two days and two nights without stopping, and at the end of that time the poor king was ready to let her go anywhere or do anything for the sake of a little peace.

“So she had her own way.  They found her a flock of the loveliest white sheep, all with blue ribbons round their necks, and blue rosettes on their little white tails; and the queen dressed herself up in a red silk petticoat and a cap embroidered in gold and silver, and then she set out by herself.

“At first it was all delightful.  She drove the sheep up the soft green hillsides, and laughed with delight to see them nibbling the fresh grass, and running hither and thither after her, and after each other.  The evening sun shone brightly, and she sat herself down on a rock and sang all the tunes she knew, that she might be just like the little shepherdess.  But while she was singing the sheep strayed away, and she had to run after them as fast as she could, to catch them up.  This made her hot and tired, so she tried to make them lie down under a chestnut tree, that she might rest beside them.  But the sheep were not a bit tired, and had no mind to rest at all.  While she was calling one set of them together the other set ran scampering off, and the queen found out that she must just give up her way for once and follow theirs.  On went the sheep, up hill and down dale, nibbling and frisking and trotting to their hearts’ content, till the queen was worn out.

“At last, by the time the sun was setting, the poor queen was so tired that she could walk no longer.  Down she sat, and the ungrateful sheep kicked up their little hind legs and trotted away out of sight as fast as they could trot.  There she was left on the hillside all alone.  It began to get dark, and the sky, instead of being blue and clear as it had been, filled with black clouds.

“‘Oh dear! oh dear!’ sighed the queen, ’here is a storm coming.  If I could only find my way down the hill, if I could only see the town!’

“But there were trees all about her, which hid the view, and soon it was so dark there was nothing to be seen, not even the stars.  And presently, crash came the thunder, and after the thunder the rain ­such rain!  It soaked the queen’s golden cap till it was so heavy with water she was obliged to throw it away, and her silk petticoat was as wet as if she had been taking a bath in it.  In vain she ran hither and thither, trying to find a way through the trees, while the rain blinded her, and the thunder deafened her, till at last she was forced to sink down on the ground, feeling more wretched and frightened and cold than any queen ever felt before.  Oh, if she were only safe back in her beautiful palace!  If only she had the tent the king wanted to send with her!  But there all night she had to stay, and all night the storm went on, till the queen was lying in a flood, and the owls and bats, startled out of their holes, went flying past her in the dark, and frightening her out of her senses.  When the morning came there was such a shivering, crumpled up queen sitting on the grass, that even her own ladies would scarcely have known her.

“‘Oh, husband! husband!’ she cried, getting up and wringing her cold little hands.  ’You will never find me, and your poor wicked wife will die of cold and hunger.’

“Tirra-lirra! tirra-lirra!  What was that sounding in the forest?  Surely ­surely ­it was a hunting horn.  But who could be blowing it so early in the cold gray morning, when it was scarcely light?  On ran the queen toward where the sound came from.  Over rocks and grass she ran, till, all of a sudden, stepping out from behind a tree, came the king himself, who had been looking for her for hours.  And then what do you think the discontented queen did?  She folded her hands, and hung her head, and said, quite sadly and simply: 

“’Oh, my lord king, make me a shepherdess really.  I don’t deserve to be a queen.  Send me away, and let me knit and spin for my living.  I have plagued you long enough.’

“And suddenly it seemed to the king as if there had been a black speck in the queen’s heart, which had been all washed away by the rain; and he took her hands, and led her home to the palace in joy and gladness.  And so they lived happy ever afterward.”

“Thank you very much, mother,” said Milly, stretching up her arms and drawing down Mrs. Norton’s face to kiss her.  “Do you really think the queen was never discontented any more?”

“I can’t tell you any more than the story does,” said Mrs. Norton.  “You see there would always be that dreadful night to think about, if she ever felt inclined to be; but I daresay the queen didn’t find it very easy at first.”

“I would have made her be a shepherdess,” said Olly, shaking his head gravely.  “She wasn’t nice, not a bit.”

“Little Mr. Severity!” said Aunt Emma, pulling his brown curls.  “It’s your turn next, Olly.”

“Then Milly must kiss me first,” said Olly, looking rather scared, as if something he didn’t quite understand was going to happen to him.

So Milly went through the operation of kissing him three times on the back of the head, and then Olly’s eyes, finding it did no good to stare at Aunt Emma or mother, went wandering all round the room in search of something else to help him.  Suddenly they came to the window, where a brown speck was dancing up and down, and then Olly’s face brightened, and he began in a great hurry: 

“Once upon a time there was a daddy-long-legs ­”

“Well,” said Milly, when they had waited a little while, and nothing more came.

“I don’t know any more,” said Olly.

“Oh, that is silly,” said Milly, “why, that isn’t a story at all.  Shut your eyes tight, that’s much the best way of making a story.”

So Olly shut his eyes, and pressed his two hands tightly over them, and then he began again: 

“Once upon a time there was a daddy-long-legs ­”

Another stop.

“Was it a good daddy-long-legs?” asked Milly, anxious to help him on.

“Yes,” said Olly, “that’s it, Milly.  Once upon a time there was a good daddy-long-legs ­”

“Well, what did he do?” asked Milly, impatiently.

“He ­he ­flewed on to father’s nose!” said Olly, keeping his hands tight over his eyes, while his little white teeth appeared below in a broad grin.

“And father said, ‘Who’s that on my nose?’ and the daddy-long-legs said, ‘It’s me, don’t you know?’ And father said, ’Get away off my nose, I don’t like you a bit.’  And the daddy-long-legs said, ’I shan’t go away.  It’s hot on the window, the sun gets in my eyes.  I like sitting up here best.’  So father took a big sofa-cushion and gave his nose ever such a bang!  And the daddy-long-legs tumbled down dead.  And the cushion tumbled down dead.  And father tumbled down dead.  And that’s all,” said Olly opening his eyes, and looking extremely proud of himself.

“Oh, you silly boy!” cried Milly, “that isn’t a bit like a real story.”

But Aunt Emma and father and mother laughed a good deal at Olly’s story, and Aunt Emma said it would do very well for such a small boy.

Whose turn was it next?

“Father’s turn! father’s turn!” cried the children, in great glee, looking round for him; but while Olly’s story had been going on, Mr. Norton, who was sitting behind them in a big arm-chair, had been covering himself up with sofa cushions and newspapers, till there was only the tip of one of his boots to be seen, coming out from under the heap.  The children were a long time dragging him out, for he pelted them with cushions, and crumpled the newspapers over their heads, till they were so tired with laughing and struggling they had no strength left.

“Father, it isn’t fair, I don’t think,” said Milly at last, sitting a breathless heap on the floor.  “Of course little people can’t make big people do things, so the big people ought to do them without making.”

“That’s not at all good reasoning, Milly,” said Mr. Norton, who could not resist the temptation of throwing one more sofa cushion at her laughing face.  “You can’t make nurse stand on her head, but that’s no reason why nurse should stand on her head.”

Just then Olly, moving up a stool behind his father’s chair, brought his little mouth suddenly down on his father’s head, and gave him three kisses in a great hurry, with a shout of triumph at the end.

“Dear me!” said Mr. Norton, shutting his eyes and falling back as if something had happened to him.  “This is very serious.  Aunt Emma, that spell of yours is really too strong.  My poor head!  It will certainly burst if I don’t get this story out directly!  Come, jump up, children ­quick!”

Up jumped the children, one on each knee, and Mr. Norton began at once.