Title:FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
TO JOHN BLAND
My Lamb, you are so very small,
You have not learned to read at all.
Yet never a printed book withstands
The urgence of your dimpled hands.
So, though this book is for yourself,
Let mother keep it on the shelf
Till you can read. O days that Pass,
That day will come too soon, alas!
1. Beautiful As the Day
2. Golden Guineas
3. Being Wanted
5. No Wings
6. A Castle and No Dinner
7. A Siege and Bed
8. Bigger Than the Baker's Boy
9. Grown Up
11. The Last Wish
BEAUTIFUL AS THE DAY
The house was three miles from the station, but before the dusty
hired fly had rattled along for five minutes the children began to
put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, 'Aren't we
nearly there?And every time they passed a house, which was not
very often, they all said, ''Oh, is THIS it?But it never was,
till they reached the very top of the hill, just past the
chalk-quarry and before you come to the gravel-pit. And then there
was a white house with a green garden and an orchard beyond, and
mother said, 'Here we are!''How white the house is,said Robert.
'And look at the roses,said Anthea.
'And the plums,said Jane.
'It is rather decent,Cyril admitted.
The Baby said, 'Wanty go walky'; and the fly stopped with a last
rattle and jolt.
Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on in the scramble
to get out of the carriage that very minute, but no one seemed to
mind. Mother, curiously enough, was in no hurry to get out; and
even when she had come down slowly and by the step, and with no
jump at all, she seemed to wish to see the boxes carried in, and
even to pay the driver, instead of joining in that first glorious
rush round the garden and the orchard and the thorny, thistly,
briery, brambly wilderness beyond the broken gate and the dry
fountain at the side of the house. But the children were wiser,
for once. It was not really a pretty house at all; it was quite
ordinary, and mother thought it was rather inconvenient, and was
quite annoyed at there being no shelves, to speak of, and hardly a
cupboard in the place. Father used to say that the ironwork on the
roof and coping was like an architect's nightmare. But the house
was deep in the country, with no other house in sight, and the
children had been in London for two years, without so much as once
going to the seaside even for a day by an excursion train, and so
the White House seemed to them a sort of Fairy Palace set down in
an Earthly Paradise. For London is like prison for children,
especially if their relations are not rich.
Of course there are the shops and the theatres, and Maskelyne and
Cook's, and things, but if your people are rather poor you get taken to the theatres, and you can't buy things out of the
shops; and London has none of those nice things that children may
play with without hurting the things or themselves - such as trees
and sand and woods and waters. And nearly everything in London is
the wrong sort of shape - all straight lines and flat streets,
instead of being all sorts of odd shapes, like things are in the
country. Trees are all different, as you know, and I am sure some
tiresome person must have told you that there are no two blades of
grass exactly alike. But in streets, where the blades of grass
grow, everything is like everything else. This is why so
many children who live in towns are so extremely naughty. They do
not know what is the matter with them, and no more do their fathers
and mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, tutors, governesses, and
nurses; but I know. And so do you now. Children in the country
are naughty sometimes, too, but that is for quite different
The children had explored the gardens and the outhouses thoroughly
before they were caught and cleaned for tea, and they saw quite
well that they were certain to be happy at the White House. They
thought so from the first moment, but when they found the back of
the house covered with jasmine, an in white flower, and smelling
like a bottle of the most expensive scent that is ever given for a
birthday present; and when they had seen the lawn, all green and
smooth, and quite different from the brown grass in the gardens at
Camden Town; and when they had found the stable with a loft over it
and some old hay still left, they were almost certain; and when
Robert had found the broken swing and tumbled out of it and got a
lump on his head the size of an egg, and Cyril had nipped his
finger in the door of a hutch that seemed made to keep rabbits in,
if you ever had any, they had no longer any doubts whatever.
The best part of it all was that there were no rules about not
going to places and not doing things. In London almost everything
is labelled mustn't touch,'' and though the label is invisible,
just as bad, because you know there, or if you you
jolly soon get told.
The White House was on the edge of a hill, with a wood behind it and the chalk-quarry on one side and the gravel-pit on the other.
Down at the bottom of the hill was a level plain, with queer-shaped
white buildings where people burnt lime, and a big red brewery and
other houses; and when the big chimneys were smoking and the sun
was setting, the valley looked as if it was filled with golden
mist, and the limekilns and oast-houses glimmered and glittered
till they were like an enchanted city out of the Arabian Nights.
Now that I have begun to tell you about the place, I feel that I
could go on and make this into a most interesting story about all
the ordinary things that the children did - just the kind of things
you do yourself, you know - and you would believe every word of it;
and when I told about the children's being tiresome, as you are
sometimes, your aunts would perhaps write in the margin of the
story with a pencil, ''How true!or ''How like life!'and you would
see it and very likely be annoyed. So I will only tell you the
really astonishing things that happened, and you may leave the book
about quite safely, for no aunts and uncles either are likely to
write ''How true!'' on the edge of the story. Grown-up people find
it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they
have what they call proof. But children will believe almost
anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that
the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well
that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes
round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun
gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun as
it is, and the earth knows its place, and lies as still as a mouse.
Yet I daresay you believe all that about the earth and the sun, and
if so you will find it quite easy to believe that before Anthea and
Cyril and the others had been a week in the country they had found
a fairy. At least they called it that, because that was what it
called itself; and of course it knew best, but it was not at all
like any fairy you ever saw or heard of or read about.
It was at the gravel-pits. Father had to go away suddenly on
business, and mother had gone away to stay with Granny, who was not
very well. They both went in a great hurry, and when they were
gone the house seemed dreadfully quiet and empty, and the children
wandered from one room to another and looked at the bits of paper
and string on the floors left over from the packing, and not yet
cleared up, and wished they had something to do. It was Cyril who
say, let's take our Margate spades and go and dig in the
gravel-pits. We can pretend seaside.'Father said it was once,Anthea said; 'he says there are shells
there thousands of years old.So they went. Of course they had been to the edge of the
gravel-pit and ...