Read CHAPTER II - INSIDE A TRUNK of The Adventures of Herr Baby , free online book, by Mrs. Molesworth, on

“For girls are as silly as spoons, dears,
And boys are as jolly as bricks.
Oh Mammy, you tell us a story!-
They won’t hear a word that I say.”

“Mother, mother!” they all cried with one voice, and the three big ones jumped up and ran to her, all pulling her at once.

“Mother, mother, do sit down in the rocking-chair and look comfortable,” said Fritz.

“There’s still some tea. You’ll have a cup of our tea, won’t you, mother?” said Celia.

“And some bread and honey,” said Denny.

“It won’t spoil your afternoon tea; don’t say it will,” said all together, for nothing would ever make them believe that when mother came up to the nursery at tea-time it could be allowed that she should not have a share of whatever there was.

“Such a good thing we had honey to-night,” said Celia, who was busy cutting a very dainty piece of bread and butter. “We persuaded Lisa to give it us extra, you know, mother, because of the news. And, oh, mother, what do you think Baby says? he-

“Baby! what is the matter with him?” interrupted mother.

They all turned to look at him. Poor Baby, he had set to work to get down from his chair to run to mother with the others, but the chair was high and Baby was short, and Lisa, who had gone to the cupboard for a fresh cup and saucer for “madame,” as she called the children’s mother, had not noticed the trouble Herr Baby had got himself into. One little leg and a part of his body were stuck fast in the open space between the bars at the back, his head had somehow got under the arm of the chair, and could not be got out again without help. And Baby was far too proud to call out for help as long as there was a chance of his doing without it. But he really was in a very uncomfortable state, and it was a wonder that the chair, which was a light wicker one, had not toppled over with the queer way in which he was hanging. They got him out at last; his face was very red, and I think the tears had been very near coming, but he choked them down, and looking up gravely he said to his mother,-

“Him’s chair is getting too small. Him hasn’t room to turn.”

“Is it really?” said his mother, quite gravely too. She saw that Celia and Fritz were ready to burst out laughing at poor Baby, and she didn’t want them to do so, for Baby had really been very brave, and now when he was trying hard not to cry it would have been too bad to laugh at him. “Is it really?” she said. “I must see about it, and if it is too small we must get you another.”

“Him doesn’t want you to pack up that chair,” said Baby again, giving himself a sort of shake, as if to make sure that his head, and his legs, and all the rest of him, were in their proper places after being so turned about and twisted by his struggles in the chair.

“He’s quite in a fuss about packing,” said Celia; “that’s what I was going to tell you, mother. He stopped in the middle of his tea to think about it, and he said he thought we’d better begin to-night.”

“Yes,” said Baby. “There’s such lots to pack. All our toys, and the labbits, and the mouses, and the horses, and the fireplaces, and the tables, and the cups, and the saucers,” his eyes wandering round the room as he went on with his list. “Him thinks we’ll need lots of boats to go in.”

“And two or three railway trains all to ourselves,” said mother.

Baby looked up at her gravely. He could not make out if mother was in fun or earnest. His little puzzled face made mother draw him to her and give him a kiss.

“It’s a shame to talk nonsense to such a serious little man,” she said. “Don’t trouble yourself about the packing, Baby dear. Don’t you know grandfather, and auntie, and I have had lots of packings to do in our lives? Why, we had to pack up two houses when we came away from India, and that was much much farther away than where we’re going now! And you were such a tiny baby then-it was very much harder, for mother was very very sad, and she never thought you would grow to be a big strong boy like what you are now.”

“Was that when-” began thoughtless Denny, but Fritz gave her a tug.

“You know it makes mother unhappy to talk about that time,” he whispered; but mother heard him.

No, Fritz, she said; I dont mind Denny thinking about it. I am so glad to have all of you, dears, happy and good, that my sorrow is not so bad as it was. And I am so glad you and Celia can remember your father. Poor Baby-he can’t remember him,” she said, softly stroking Baby’s face.

“’Cos he went to Heaven when him was so little,” said Baby. Then he put his arms round mother’s neck. “Him and Fritz will soon grow big, and be werry good to mother,” he said. “And ganfather and auntie are werry good to mother, isn’t they?” he added.

“Yes indeed,” said mother; “and to all of you too. What would we do without grandfather and auntie?”

“Some poor little boys and girls has no mothers and ganfathers, and no stockings and shoes, and no nothings,” said Baby solemnly.

“There’s some things I shouldn’t mind not having,” said Fritz; “I shouldn’t mind having no lessons.”

“O Fritz,” said his sisters; “what a lazy boy you are!”

“No, I’m just not lazy. I’m awfully fond of doing everything-I don’t even mind if it’s a hard thing, so long as it isn’t anything in books,” said Fritz, sturdily. “Some people’s made one way, and some’s made another, and I’m made the way of not liking books.”

“I wonder what Baby will say to books,” said mother, smiling.

“Is jography in books,” said Baby. “Him wants to learn jography.”

I think it’s awfully stupid,” said Denny. “I’m sure you won’t like it once you begin. Did you like lessons when you were little, mother?”

“Yes, I’m sure mother did,” said Fritz. “People’s fathers and mothers were always far gooder than their children are. I’ve noticed that. If ever big people tell you about when they were little, it’s always about how good they were. And they say always, ’Dear me, how happy children should be nowadays; we were never allowed to do so and so when we were little.’ That’s the way old Mrs. Nesbitt always talks, isn’t it mother? I wonder if it’s true. If people keep getting naughtier than their fathers and mothers were, the world will get very naughty some day. Is it true?”

“I think it’s true that children get to be more spoilt,” said Denny in a low voice. “Just look how Baby’s clambering all over mother! O Baby, you nearly knocked over mother’s cup! I never was allowed to do like that when I was a little girl.”

Everybody burst out laughing-even mother-but Denny had the good quality of not minding being laughed at.

“Was the tea nice, and the bread and butter and honey?” she said eagerly, as mother rose to put the empty cup in a place of safety.

“Very nice, thank you,” said mother. “But I must go, dears. I have a good many things to talk about with grandfather and auntie.”

“Packing?” said Baby.

“How you do go on about packing!” said Denny. “Of course mother’s not going to pack to-night.”

Baby’s face fell.

“Him does so want to begin packing,” he said dolefully. “’Appose we forgottened somesing, and we was over the sea!”

“Well, I must talk about it all, and write down all we have to take,” said mother. “So I must go to auntie now.”

“Oh, not yet, not yet. Just five minutes more!” cried the children. “And, mother,” said Celia, “you’ve not answered my question. Is it true that children used to be so much better long ago? Were you never naughty?”

“Sometimes,” said mother, smiling.

“Oh, I’m so glad!” said Celia. “Often, mother? I do hope you were often naughty. Do tell us a story about something naughty you did when you were little. You know it would be a good lesson for us. It would show us how awfully good one may learn to be, for, you know, you’re awfully good now.”

“Yes, of course you are,” said Fritz and Denny.

“Mother’s dedfully good,” said Baby, poking up his face from her knee where he had again perched himself, to kiss her. “Do tell him one story of when you was a little girl, mother.”

Mother’s face seemed for a minute rather puzzled. Then it suddenly cleared up.

“I will tell you a very little story,” she said; “it really is a very little story, but it is as long as I have time for just now, and it may amuse you. Baby’s packing put it in my head.”

“Is it about when you were a little girl, mother?” interrupted Denny.

“Yes. Well, when I was a little girl, I had no mother.”

The elder children nodded their heads. But Baby, to whom it was a new idea, shook his sadly.

“Zat was a gate pity,” he said. “Poor mother to have no mother. Had you no shoes and stockings, and nothing nice to eat?”

“You sill-” began Denny, but mother stopped her.

“Oh yes,” she said, “I had shoes and stockings, and everything I wanted, for I had a very kind father. You know how kind grandfather is? And I had a kind sister whom you know too. But when I was a little girl, my sister was not herself very big, and she had a great deal to do for a not very big girl, you know. There were our brothers, for we had several, and though they were generally away at school there seemed always something to do for them-letters to write to them, if there was nothing else-and then, in the holidays, there were all their new shirts, and stockings, and things to get to take back to school. Helen seemed always busy. She had been at school too, before your grandfather came back from India, for five years, bringing me with him, quite a wee little girl of four. And Helen was so happy to be with us again, that she begged not to go back to school, and, as she was really very well on for her age, grandfather let her stay at home.”

“There, you see,” whispered Celia, nudging Fritz. “It’s beginning-it always does-you hear how awfully good auntie was.”

Mother went on quietly. If she heard what Celia said she took no notice. “Grandfather let her stay at home and have lessons there. She had a great many lessons to learn for her age besides those that one learns out of books. She had to learn to be very active, and very thoughtful, and, above all, very patient. For the little sister she had to take care of was, I am afraid, a very spoilt little girl when she first came home. Grandfather had spoiled her without meaning it; he was so sorry for her because she had no mother, and Helen was so sorry for her too, that it was rather difficult for her not to spoil her as well.”

Here Baby himself “inrumpted.”

“Him doesn’t understand,” he said. “Who were that little girl? Him wants a story about mother when her was a little girl;” and the corners of his mouth went down, and his eyes grew dewy-looking, in a very sad way.

“Poor Baby,” said mother. “I’ll try and tell it more plainly. I was that little girl, and auntie was my sister Helen. I must get on with my little story. I was forgetting that Baby would not quite understand. Well, one day to my great delight, Helen told me that grandfather was going to take her and me and the two brothers, who were then at home, to spend Christmas with one of our aunts in London. This aunt had children too, and though I had never seen them Helen told me they were very nice, for she knew them well, as she used to go there for her holidays before we came home. She told me most about a little girl called Lilly, who was just about my age. I had never had a little friend of my own age, and I was always talking and thinking about how nice it would be, and I was quite vexed with Helen because she would not begin to pack up at once. I was always teasing her to know what trunks we should take, and if all my dolls might go, and I am sure poor Helen often wished she had not told me anything about it till the very day before. I got in the way of going up to the big attic where the trunks were kept, and of looking at them and wondering which would go, and wishing Helen would let me have one all for myself and my dolls and their things. There was one trunk which took my fancy more than all the others. It was an old-fashioned trunk, but it must have been a very good one, for it shut with a sort of spring, and inside it had several divisions, some with little lids of their own, and I used to think how nice it would be for me, I could put all my dolls in so beautifully, and each would have a kind of house for itself. I don’t remember how I managed to get it open, perhaps it had been a little open when I first began my visits to the attic, for the lid was very heavy, and I was neither big nor strong for my age. But it was open, and it stayed so, for no one else ever went up to the attic but I. The other people in the house were too busy, and no one would have thought there was anything amusing in looking at empty trunks in a row. But I went up to the attic day after day. I climbed up the narrow staircase as soon as I had had my breakfast, and stayed there till I heard my nurse calling me to get ready to go out, or to come to my lessons, for I was beginning to learn to read, and I used to have a little lesson every day. And at last one day I said to my sister,

“’Helen, may I have the big trunk with the little cupboards in it for my trunk?’

“Helen was busy at the time, and I don’t think she heard exactly what I said. She answered me hurriedly that she would see about it afterwards. But I went on teasing.

“’May I begin putting Marietta and Lady Regina into the little cupboards inside?’ I said.

“‘Oh yes, I daresay you can if you like,’ said Helen. She told me afterwards that when I spoke of cupboards she never thought I meant a trunk, she thought I was speaking of some of the nursery cupboards.

“It was just bed-time then, too late for me to go to the attic, for I knew there was no chance of my getting leave to go up there with a candle. But I fell asleep with my head full of how nicely I could put the dolls into the trunk, each with her clothes beside her, and the very first thing the next morning I got them all together and I mounted up to the attic. I had never told nurse about my going up there. Once or twice, perhaps, she had seen me coming down the stair, but very likely she had thought I had only been a little way up to look out of a window there was there. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her, perhaps I was afraid of her stopping my going. I waited till she was busy about her work, fetching coals and so on, and then I trotted off with Lady Regina under one arm and Marietta under the other, and a bundle of their clothes tied up in my pinafore before, to make my way upstairs to the delightful trunk. It was open as usual, and after putting my dolls and bundles down on the floor, I managed to lift out the two top trays. One of them was much larger than the other, and it was in what I called the cupboards below the smaller one that I settled to put Regina and Marietta. There were two of these little cupboards, and each had a lid. They would just do beautifully. Under the larger tray there was just one big space without a lid, ‘just a hole,’ I called it. I went on for a little time, laying in some of the clothes first to make a nice soft place for the dolls to lie on, but I soon got tired. It was so very far to reach over, for the outside edges of the box were high, higher of course than the inside divisions, for the trays I had taken out, which lay on the top of the lower spaces, were a good depth, and there had been no division between them. It came into my head that it would be much easier if I were to get into the box myself-I could stand in the big hole, as I called it, and reach over to the little divisions where I wanted to put the dolls, and it would be far less tiring than trying to reach over from the outside. So I clambered in-it was not very difficult-and when I found myself really inside the trunk I was so pleased that I sat down cross-legged, like a little Turk, to take a rest before going on with what I called my packing. But sitting still for long was not in my way-I soon jumped up again, meaning to reach over for Lady Regina, who was lying on the floor beside the trunk, but, how it happened I cannot tell, I suppose I somehow caught the tapes which fastened the lid; any way down it came! It did not hurt me much, for I had not had time to stretch out my head, and the weight fell mostly on my shoulders, sideways as it were, and before I knew what had happened I found myself doubled up somehow in my hole, with the heavy lid on the top of me, all in the dark, except a little line of light round the edge, for the lid had not shut quite down; the hasp of the lock-as the little sticking-out piece is called-had caught in the fall, and was wedged into a wrong place. So, luckily for me, there was still a space for some air to come in, and a little light, though very little. I was dreadfully frightened at first; then I began to get over my fright a little, and to struggle to get out. Of course my first idea was to try to push up the lid with my head and shoulders; I remember the feeling of it pushing back upon me-the dreadful feeling that I couldn’t move it, that I was shut up there and couldn’t get out! I was too little to understand all at once that there could be any danger, that I might perhaps be suffocated-that means choked, Baby-for want of air; or that I might really be hurt by being so cramped and doubled up. And really there was not much danger; if I had been older I should have been more frightened than there was really any reason to be. But I was big enough to begin very quickly to get very angry and impatient. I had never in all my life been forced to do anything I disliked; often and often my nurse, and sometimes Helen, had begged me to try to sit still for a minute or two, but I never would. And now the lesson of having to give in to something much worse than sitting still in my nice little chair by the nursery fire, or standing still for two minutes while a new frock was tried on, had to be learnt! There was no getting rid of it; I kicked and I pushed, it was no use; the strong heavy lid which had been to India and back two or three times would not move the least bit. I tried to poke out my fingers through the little space that was left, but I could not find the lock, and it was a good thing I did not, for if I had touched the hasp, most likely the lid would have fallen quite into its place, crushing my poor little fingers, and shutting me in without any air at all. At last I thought of another plan. I set to work screaming.

“‘Nurse, nurse, Nelly, oh Nelly,’ I cried, and at last I shouted, ’Papa, Papa, PAPA,’ at the top of my voice. But it was no use! Most children would have begun screaming at the very first. But I was not a frightened child, and I was very proud. I did not want any one to find me shut up in a box like that, besides, they would be sure to stop my ever coming up to the attic again. So it was not till I had tired myself out with trying to push up the lid that I set to work to screaming, and that made it all the more provoking that my calls brought no one. At last I got so out of patience that I set to work again kicking for no use at all, but just because I was so angry. I kicked and screamed, and at last I burst into tears and roared. Then I caught sight, through the chink, of Lady Regina’s blue dress, where the doll was lying on the floor near the trunk.

“‘Nasty Regina,’ I shouted, ’nasty, ugly Regina. You are lying there as if there was nothing the matter, and it was all for you I came up here. I hate dolls-they never do nothing. If you were a little dog you’d go and bark, and then somebody would come and let me out.’

“Then I went on crying and sobbing till I was perfectly tired, and then what do you think I did? Though I was so uncomfortable, all crushed up into a little ball, I went to sleep! I went to sleep as soundly as if I had been in my own little bed, and afterwards I found, from what they told me, that I must have slept quite two hours. When I woke up I could not think where I was. I felt so stiff and sore, and when I tried to stretch myself out I could not, and then I remembered where I was! It seemed quite dark; I wondered if it was night, till I noticed the little chink of light at the edge of the lid, and then I began to cry again, but not so wildly as before. All of a sudden I thought I heard a sound-some one was coming upstairs! and then I heard voices.

“‘Fallen out of the window,’ one said. ’Oh no, nurse, she couldn’t! She could never get through.’

“But yet the person seemed to be looking out of the window all the same, for I heard them opening and shutting it. And then I called out again.

“’Oh Nelly, Nelly. I’se here; I’se shut up in the big box with the cupboards.’

They didnt hear me at first. My little voice must have sounded very faint and squeaky from out of the trunk, besides they were not half-way up the attic-stairs. So I went on crying-

“‘Oh Nelly, Nelly! I’se up here. Oh Nelly, Nelly!’

“She heard me this time. Dear Nelly! I never have called to her in vain, children, in all my life. And in half a minute she had dashed up the stairs, and, guided by my voice, was kneeling down beside the trunk.

“‘Little May, my poor little May,’ Nelly called out; and do you know I really think she was crying too! I was-by the time Nelly and the servants who were with her had got the lid unhooked and raised, and had lifted me out-I was in floods of tears. I clung to Nelly, and told her how ‘dedful’ it had been, and she petted me so that I am afraid I quite forgot it was all my own fault.

“‘You might have been there for hours and hours, May,’ Nelly said to me, ’if it hadn’t been for nurse thinking of the window on the stair. You must never go off by yourself to do things like that,’ and when I told her that I had asked her and she had given me leave, she said she had not at all known what I meant, and that I must try to remember not to tease about things once I had been told to wait. Any way I think I had got a good lesson of patience that day, and one that I never forgot, for it really is not at all a pleasant thing to be shut up in a big trunk.”

Mother stopped.

Baby, who had been listening with solemn eyes, said slowly,

“Him will not pack by hisself. Him will wait till somebody can help him. It would be so dedful sad if him was to get shuttened up like poor little mother, and perhaps you’d all go away ac’oss the sea and nebber find him.”

The corners of his mouth went down at this sorrowful picture, and his eyes looked as if they were beginning to think about crying. But mother and Celia set to work petting and kissing him before the tears had time to come.

“As if we would ever go across the sea without him,” said mother.

“Why, we should never know how to do anything without Herr Baby,” said Celia.

“Fritz and Baby will do all the fussy things in travelling-taking the tickets, and counting the luggage, and all that-they’re such big men, aren’t they?” said Denny, with mischief in her twinkling green eyes.

“Now you, just mind what you’re about,” said Fritz, gallantly. “You’ll make him cry just when mother’s been comforting him up. Such stupids girls are!” he added in a lower voice.

“I really must go now,” said mother, getting up from her chair. “Auntie will not know what has become of me. I have been up here, why a whole half hour, instead of five minutes!”

“Auntie will think mother’s got shut up in a trunk again,” said Denny, whose tongue never could be still for long, and at this piece of wit they all burst out laughing.

All but Herr Baby. He couldn’t see that it was any laughing matter. Mother’s story had sunk deep into his mind. Trunks were things to be careful of. Baby saw this clearly.