Nine Unlikely Tales
Nine Unlikely Tales
I T is very hard, when you have been accustomed to go to the seaside every summer ever since you were quite little, to be made to stay in London just because an aunt and an uncle choose to want to come and stay at your house to see the Royal Academy and go to the summer sales.
Selim and Thomasina felt that it was very hard indeed. And aunt and uncle were not the nice kind, either. If it had been Aunt Emma, who dressed dolls and told fairy-tales-or Uncle Reggie, who took you to the Crystal Palace, and gave you five bob at a time, and never even asked what you spent it on, it would have been different. But it was Uncle Thomas and Aunt Selina.
Aunt Selina was all beady, and sat bolt upright, and told you to mind what you were told, and Selim had been named after her-as near as they could get. And Uncle Thomas was the one Thomasina had been named after: he was deaf, and he always told you what the moral of everything was, and the housemaid said he was "near."
"I know he is, worse luck," said Thomasina.
"I mean, miss," explained the housemaid, "he's none too free with his chink."
Selim groaned. "He never gave me but a shilling in his life," said he, "and that turned out to be bad when I tried to change it at the ginger-beer shop."
The children could not understand why this aunt and uncle were allowed to interfere with everything as they did: and they quite made up their minds that when they were grown up they would never allow an aunt or an uncle to cross their doorsteps. They never thought-poor, dear little things-that some day they would grow up to be aunts and uncles in their turn, or, at least, one of each.
It was very hot in London that year: the pavement was like hot pie, and the asphalt was like hot pudding, and there was a curious wind that collected dust and straw and dirty paper, and then got tired of its collection, and threw it away in respectable people's areas and front gardens. The blind in the nursery had never been fixed up since the day when the children took it down to make a drop-scene for a play they were going to write and never did. So the hot afternoon sun came burning in through the window, and the children got hotter and hotter, and crosser and crosser, till at last Selim slapped Thomasina's arms till she cried, and Thomasina kicked Selim's legs till he screamed.
Then they sat down in different corners of the nursery and cried, and called each other names, and said they wished they were dead. This is very naughty indeed, as, of course, you know; but you must remember how hot it was.
When they had called each other all the names they could think of, Thomasina said, suddenly, "All right, Silly," (that was Selim's pet name)-"cheer up."
"It's too hot to cheer up," said Selim, gloomily.
"We've been very naughty," said Thomasina, rubbing her eyes with the paint rag, "but it's all the heat. I heard Aunt Selina telling mother the weather wore her nerves to fiddle-strings. That just meant she was cross."
"Then it's not our fault," said Selim. "People say be good and you'll be happy. Uncle Reggy says, 'Be happy, and perhaps you'll be good.' I could be good if I was happy."
"So could I," said Thomasina.
"What would make you happy?" said a thick, wheezy voice from the toy cupboard, and out rolled the big green and red india-rubber ball that Aunt Emma had sent them last week. They had not played with it much, because the garden was so hot and sunny-and when they wanted to play with it in the street, on the shady side, Aunt Selina had said it was not like respectable children, so they we