[“In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.”]
I am like Napoleon in that I can go to sleep at any moment; I am unlike him (I believe) in that I am always doing so. One makes no apology for doing so on Sunday afternoon; the apology indeed should come from the others, the wakeful parties….
“Will you come and play wiv me?”
“I’m rather busy just now,” I said with closed eyes. “After tea.”
“Why are you raver busy just now? My baby’s only raver busy sometimes.”
“Well then, you know what it’s like; how important it is that one shouldn’t be disturbed.”
“But you must be beturbed when I ask you to come and play wiv me.”
“Oh, well … what shall we play at?”
“Trains,” said Margery eagerly.
When we play at trains I have to be a tunnel. I don’t know if you have ever been a tunnel? No; well, it’s an over-rated profession.
“We won’t play trains,” I announced firmly, “because it’s Sunday.”
“Why not because it’s Sunday?”
(Oh, you little pagan!)
“Hasn’t Mummy told you about Sunday?”
“Oh, yes, Maud did tell me,” said Margery casually. Then she gave an innocent little smile. “Oh, I called Mummy Maud,” she said in pretended surprise. “I quite fought I was upstairs!”
I hope you follow. The manners and customs of good society must be observed on the ground floor where visitors may happen; upstairs one relaxes a little.
“Do you know,” Margery went on with the air of a discoverer, “you mustn’t say ‘prayers’ downstairs. Or ‘corsets.’”
“I never do,” I affirmed. “Well, anyhow I never will again.”
“Why mayn’t you?”
“I don’t know,” I said sleepily.
“Well–prehaps it’s because your mother tells you not to.”
“Well, ‘at’s a silly fing to say,” said Margery scornfully.
“It is. I’m thoroughly ashamed of it. I apologise. Good night.” And I closed my eyes again….
“I fought you were going to play wiv me, Mr. Bingle,” sighed Margery to herself.
“My name is not Bingle,” I said, opening one eye.
“Why isn’t it Bingle?”
“The story is a very long and sad one. When I wake up I will tell it to you. Good night.”
“Tell it to me now.”
There was no help for it.
“Once upon a time,” I said rapidly, “there was a man called Bingle, Oliver Bingle, and he married a lady called Pringle. And his brother married a lady called Jingle; and his other brother married a Miss Wingle. And his cousin remained single…. That is all.”
“Oh, I see,” said Margery doubtfully. “Now will you play wiv me?”
How can one resist the pleading of a young child?
“All right,” I said. “We’ll pretend I’m a little girl, and you’re my mummy, and you’ve just put me to bed…. Good night, mummy dear.”
“Oh, but I must cover you up.” She fetched a table-cloth, and a pram-cover, and The Times, and a handkerchief, and the cat, and a doll’s what-I-mustn’t-say-downstairs, and a cushion; and she covered me up and tucked me in. “‘Ere, ‘ere, now go to sleep, my darling,” she said, and kissed me lovingly.
“Oh, Margie, you dear,” I whispered.
“You called me ‘Margie’!” she cried in horror.
“I meant ‘Mummy.’ Good night.”
One, two, three seconds passed rapidly.
“It’s morning,” said a bright voice in my ear. “Get up.”
“I’m very ill,” I pleaded; “I want to stay in bed all day.”
“But your dear uncle,” said Margery, inventing hastily, “came last night after you were in bed, and stayed ‘e night. Do you see? And he wants you to sit on him in bed and talk to him.”
“Where is he? Show me the bounder.”
“‘Ere he is,” said Margery, pointing at me.
“But look here, I can’t sit on my own chest and talk to myself. I’ll take the two parts if you insist, Sir Herbert, but I can’t play them simultaneously. Not even Irving—-“
“Why can’t you play them simrulaleously?”
“Well, I can’t. Margie, will you let me go to sleep?”
“Nope,” said Margery, shaking her head.
“You should say, ‘No thank you, revered and highly respected Uncle.’”
“No hank you, Mr. Cann.”
“I have already informed you that my name is not Bingle and I have now to add that neither is it Cann.”
“Why neiver is it Cann?”
“That isn’t grammar. You should say, ‘Why can it not either?’”
“I don’t know.”
“No, I can’t even say prehaps.”
“Well, say I shall understand when I’m a big girl.”
“You’ll understand when you’re a big girl, Margery,” I said solemnly.
“Oh, I see.”
“That’s right. Now then, what about going to sleep?”
She was silent for a moment, and I thought I was safe. Then.
“Uncle, just tell me–why was ‘at little boy crying vis morning?”
“Which little boy?”
“Ve one in ‘e road.”
“Oh, that one. Well, he was crying because his Uncle hadn’t had any sleep all night, and when he tried to go to sleep in the afternoon—-“
“Say prehaps again.”
My first rejected contribution! I sighed and had another shot. “Well, then,” I said gallantly, “it must have been because he hadn’t got a sweet little girl of three to play with him.”
“Yes,” said Margery, nodding her head thoughtfully, “‘at was it.”
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