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From Anyhow stories by Lucy Lane Clifford.
Start of Story
" We won't be good," they cried. " We hate
being good, and we always mean to be naughty.
We like being naughty very much."
" Do you remember what I told you I should do
if you were very very naughty ? " she asked sadly.
"Yes, we know, but it isn't true," they cried.
" There is no mother with a wooden tail and glass
eyes, and if there were we should just stick pins into
her and send her away ; but there is none."
Then the mother became really angry at last, and
sent them off to bed, but instead of crying and being
sorry at her anger they laughed for joy, and when
they were in bed they sat up and sang merry songs
at the top of their voices.
The next morning quite early, without asking
leave from the mother, the children got up and ran
off as fast as they could over the. fields towards the
bridge to look for the village girl. She was sitting
as usual by the heap of stones with the peardrum
under her shawl.
" Now please show us the little man and woman,"
they cried, " and let us hear the peardrum. We were
very naughty last night." But the girl kept the
peardrum carefully hidden. " We were very
naughty," the children cried again.
" Indeed," she said in precisely the same tone in
which she had spoken yesterday.
" But we were," they repeated ; " we were indeed."
"So you say," she answered. "You were not
half naughty enough."
" Why, we were sent to bed ! "
" Just so," said the girl, putting the other corner
of the shawl over the peardrum. " If you had been
really naughty you wouldn't have gone ; but you
can't help it, you see. As I remarked before, it re-
quires a great deal of skill to be naughty well."
" But we broke our mugs, we threw our bread and
butter on the floor, we did everything we could to
"Mere trifles," answered the village girl scorn-
fully. " Did you throw cold water on the fire, did
you break the clock, did you pull all the tins down
from the walls, and throw them on the floor ? "
" No ! " exclaimed the children, aghast, " we did
not do that."
" I thought not," the girl answered. " So many
people mistake a little noise and foolishness for real
naughtiness ; but, as I remarked before, it wants skill
to do the thing properly. Well, good day," and before
they could say another word she had vanished.
" We'll be much worse," the children cried, in
despair. " We'll go and do all the things she says;"
and then they went home and did all these things.
They threw water on the fire ; they pulled down the
baking-dish and the cake-tin, the fish-slice and the
lid of the saucepan they had never seen, and banged
them on the floor ; they broke the clock and danced
on the butter; they turned everything upside down ;
and then they sat still and wondered if they were
naughty enough. And when the mother saw all
that they had done she did not scold them as she
had the day before or send them to bed, but she just
broke down and cried, and then she looked at the
children and said sadly
" Unless you are good to-morrow, my poor Blue-
Eyes and Turkey, I shall indeed have to go away
and come back no more, and the new mother I told
you of will come to you."
They did not believe her ; yet their hearts ached
when they saw how unhappy she looked, and they
thought within themselves that when they once had
seen the little man and woman dance, they would
be good to the dear mother for ever afterwards;
but they could not be good now till they had heard
the sound of the peardrum, seen the little man
and woman dance, and heard the secret told then
they would be satisfied.
The next morning, before the birds were stirring,
before the sun had climbed high enough to look in
at their bedroom window, or the flowers had wiped
their eyes ready for the day, the children got up and
crept out of the cottage and ran across the fields.
They did not think the village girl would be up so
very early, but their hearts had ached so much at the
sight of the mother's sad face that they had not been
ahle to sleep, and they longed to know if they had
heen naughty enough, and if they might just once
hear the peardrum and see the little man and woman,
and then go home and be good for ever.
To their surprise they found the village girl
sitting by the heap of stones, just as if it were her
natural home. They ran fast when they saw her,
and they noticed that the box containing the little
man and woman was open, but she closed it quickly
when she saw them, and they heard the clicking of
the spring that kept it fast.
" We have been very naughty," they cried. " We
have done all the things you told us ; now will you
show us the little man and woman?" The girl
looked at them curiously, then drew the yellow silk
handkerchief she sometimes wore round her head
out of her pocket, and began to smooth out the
creases in it with her hands.
" You really seem quite excited," she said in her
usual voice. " You should be calm ; calmness
gathers in and hides things like a big cloak, or like
my shawl does here, for instance;" and she looked
down at the ragged covering that hid the peardrum.
" We have done all the things you told us," the
children cried again, " and we do so long to hear the
secret ; " but the girl only went on smoothing out
" I am so very particular about my dress," she
said. They could hardly listen to her in their excite-
" But do tell if we may see the little man and
woman," they entreated again. " We have been so
very naughty, and mother says she will go away
to-day and send home a new mother if we are not
" Indeed," said the girl, beginning to be interested
and amused. " The things that people say are most
singular and amusing. There is an endless variety
in language." But the children did not understand,
only entreated once more to see the little man -and
" Well, let me see," the girl said at last, just as if
she were relenting. " When did your mother say she
would go ?"
"But if she goes what shall we do ?" they cried
in despair. " We don't want her to go ; we love her
very much. Oh ! what shall we do if she goes ?"
"People- go and people come; first they go and
then they come. Perhaps she will go before she
comes ; she couldn't come before she goes. You
had better go back and be good," the girl added
suddenly ; " you are really not clever enough to be
anything else; and the little woman's secret is very
important ; she never tells it for make - believe
" But we did do all the things you told us," the
children cried, despairingly.
" You didn't throw the looking-glass out of win-
dow, or stand the baby on its head."
" No, we didn't do that," the children gasped.
"I thought not," the girl said triumphantly.
"Well, good-day. I shall not be here to-morrow.
" Oh, but don't go away," they cried. " We are
so unhappy ; do let us see them just once."
"Well, I shall go past your cottage at eleven
o'clock this morning," the girl said. "Perhaps I
shall play the peardrum as I go by."
" And will you show us the man and woman ?"
"Quite impossible, unless you have really de-
served it ; make-believe naughtiness is only spoilt
goodness. Now if you break the looking-glass and
do the things that are desired "