Arthur Conan Doyle
Three of Them
1. A CHAT ABOUT CHILDREN, SNAKES, AND ZEBUS
These little sketches are called "Three of Them," but there are really five,
on and off the stage. There is Daddy, a lumpish person with some gift for
playing Indian games when he is in the mood. He is then known as "The Great
Chief of the Leatherskin Tribe." Then there is my Lady Sunshine. These are the
grown-ups, and don't really count. There remain the three, who need some
differentiating upon paper, though their little spirits are as different in
reality as spirits could be all beautiful and all quite different. The eldest is
a boy of eight whom we shall call "Laddie." If ever there was a little cavalier
sent down ready-made it is he. His soul is the most gallant, unselfish, innocent
thing that ever God sent out to get an extra polish upon earth. It dwells in a
tall, slight, well-formed body, graceful and agile, with a head and face as
clean-cut as if an old Greek cameo had come to life, and a pair of innocent and
yet wise grey eyes that read and win the heart. He is shy and does not shine
before strangers. I have said that he is unselfish and brave. When there is the
usual wrangle about going to bed, up he gets in his sedate way. "I will go
first," says he, and off he goes, the eldest, that the others may have the few
extra minutes while he is in his bath. As to his courage, he is absolutely
lion-hearted where he can help or defend any one else. On one occasion Daddy
lost his temper with Dimples (Boy Number 2), and, not without very good
provocation, gave him a tap on the side of the head. Next instant he felt a butt
down somewhere in the region of his waist-belt, and there was an angry little
red face looking up at him, which turned suddenly to a brown mop of hair as the
butt was repeated. No one, not even Daddy, should hit his little brother. Such
was Laddie, the gentle and the fearless.
Then there is Dimples. Dimples is nearly seven, and you never saw a rounder,
softer, dimplier face, with two great roguish, mischievous eyes of wood-pigeon
grey, which are sparkling with fun for the most part, though they can look sad
and solemn enough at times. Dimples has the making of a big man in him. He has
depth and reserve in his tiny soul. But on the surface he is a boy of boys,
always in innocent mischief. "I will now do mischief," he occasionally
announces, and is usually as good as his word. He has a love and understanding
of all living creatures, the uglier and more slimy the better, treating them all
in a tender, fairy-like fashion which seems to come from some inner knowledge.
He has been found holding a buttercup under the mouth of a slug "to see if he
likes butter." He finds creatures in an astonishing way. Put him in the fairest
garden lawn, and presently he will approach you with a newt, a toad, or a huge
snail in his custody. Nothing would ever induce him to hurt them, but he gives
them what he imagines to be a little treat and then restores them to their
homes. He has been known to speak bitterly to the Lady when she has given orders
that caterpillars be killed if found upon the cabbages, and even the explanation
that the caterpillars were doing the work of what he calls "the Jarmans" did not
reconcile him to their fate.
He has an advantage over Laddie, in that he suffers from no trace of shyness
and is perfectly friendly in an instant with any one of every class of life,
plunging straight into conversation with some such remark as "Can your Daddy
give a war-whoop?" or "Were you ever chased by a bear?" He is a sunny creature
but combative sometimes, when he draws down his brows, sets his eyes, his chubby
cheeks flush, and his lips go back from his almond-white teeth. "I am Swankie
the Berserker," says he, quoting out of his favourite "Erling the Bold," which
Daddy reads aloud at bed-time. When he is in this fighting mood he can even
drive back Laddie, chiefly because the elder is far too chivalrous to hurt him.
If you want to see what Laddie can really do, put the small gloves on him and
let him go for Daddy. Some of those hurricane rallies of his would stop Daddy
grinning if they could get home, and he has to fall back off his stool in order
to get away from them.
If that latent power of Dimples should ever come out, how will it be
manifest? Surely in his imagination. Tell him a story and the boy is lost. He
sits with his little round, rosy face immovable and fixed, while his eyes never
budge from those of the speaker. He sucks in everything that is weird or
adventurous or wild. Laddie is a rather restless soul, eager to be up and doing;
but Dimples is absorbed in the present if there be something worth hearing to be
heard. In height he is half a head shorter than his brother, but rather more
sturdy in build. The power of his voice is one of his noticeable
characteristics. If Dimples is coming you know it well in advance. With that
physical gift upon the top of his audacity, and his loquacity, he fairly takes
command of any place in which he may find himself, while Laddie, his soul too
noble for jealousy, becomes one of the laughing and admiring audience.
Then there is Baby, a dainty elfin Dresden-china little creature of five, as
fair as an angel and as deep as a well. The boys are but shallow, sparkling
pools compared with this little girl with her self-repression and dainty
aloofness. You know the boys, you never feel that you quite know the girl.
Something very strong and forceful seems to be at the back of that wee body. Her
will is tremendous. Nothing can break or even bend it. Only kind guidance and
friendly reasoning can mould it. The boys are helpless if she has really made up
her mind. But this is only when she asserts herself, and those are rare
occasions. As a rule she sits quiet, aloof, affable, keenly alive to all that
passes and yet taking no part in it save for some subtle smile or glance. And
then suddenly the wonderful grey-blue eyes under the long black lashes will
gleam like coy diamonds, and such a hearty little chuckle will come from her
that every one else is bound to laugh out of sympathy. She and Dimples are great
allies and yet have continual lovers' quarrels. One night she would not even
include his name in her prayers, "God bless" every one else, but not a word of
Dimples. "Come, come, you must!" urged the Lady. "Well, then, God bless horrid
Dimples!" said she at last, after she had named the cat, the goat, her dolls, and her Wriggly.
That is a strange trait, the love for the Wriggly. It would repay thought
from some scientific brain. It is an old, faded, disused downy from her cot. Yet
go where she will, she must take Wriggly with her. All her toys put together
would not console her for the absence of Wriggly. If the family go to the
seaside, Wriggly must come too. She will not sleep without the absurd bundle in
her arms. If she goes to a party she insists upon dragging its disreputable
folds along with her, one end always projecting "to give it fresh air." Every
phase of childhood represents to the philosopher something in the history of the
race. From the newborn baby which can hang easily by one hand from a broomstick
with its legs drawn up under it, the whole evolution of mankind is re-enacted.
You can trace clearly the cave-dweller, the hunter, the scout. What, then, does
Wriggly represent? Fetish worship nothing else. The savage chooses some most
unlikely thing and adores it. This dear little savage adores her Wriggly.
So now we have our three little figures drawn as clearly as a clumsy pen can
follow such subtle elusive creatures of mood and fancy. We will suppose now that
it is a summer evening, that Daddy is seated smoking in his chair, that the Lady
is listening somewhere near, and that the three are in a tumbled heap upon the
bearskin before the empty fireplace trying to puzzle out the little problems of
their tiny lives. When three children play with a new thought it is like three
kittens with a ball, one giving it a pat and another a pat, as they chase it
from point to point. Daddy would interfere as little as possible, save when he
was called upon to explain or to deny. It was usually wiser for him to pretend
to be doing something else. Then their talk was the more natural. On this
occasion, however, he was directly appealed to.
"Daddy!" asked Dimples.
"Do you fink that the roses know us?"
Dimples, in spite of his impish naughtiness, had a way of looking such a
perfectly innocent and delightfully kissable little person that one felt he
really might be a good deal nearer to the sweet secrets of Nature than his
elders. However, Daddy was in a material mood.
"No, boy; how could the roses know us?"
"The big yellow rose at the corner of the gate knows me."
"How do you know that?"
"'Cause it nodded to me yesterday."
Laddie roared with laughter.
"That was just the wind, Dimples."
"No, it was not," said Dimples, with conviction. "There was none wind. Baby
was there. Weren't you, Baby?"
"The wose knew us," said Baby, gravely.
"Beasts know us," said Laddie. "But then beasts run round and make noises.
Roses don't make noises."
"Yes, they do. They rustle."
"Woses wustle," said Baby.
"That's not a living noise. That's an all-the-same noise. Different to Roy,
who barks and makes different noises all the time. Fancy the roses all barkin'
at you. Daddy, will you tell us about animals?"
That is one of the child stages which takes us back to the old tribe life
their inexhaustible interest in animals, some distant echo of those long nights
when wild men sat round the fires and peered out into the darkness, and
whispered about all the strange and deadly creatures who fought with them for
the lordship of the earth. Children love caves, and they love fires and meals
out of doors, and they love animal talk all relics of the far distant past.
"What is the biggest animal in South America, Daddy?"
Daddy, wearily: "Oh, I don't know."
"I s'pose an elephant would be the biggest?"
"No, boy; there are none in South America."
"Well, then, a rhinoceros?"
"No, there are none."
"Well, what is there, Daddy?"
"Well, dear, there are jaguars. I suppose a jaguar is the biggest."
"Then it must be thirty-six feet long."
"Oh, no, boy; about eight or nine feet with his tail."
"But there are boa-constrictors in South America thirty-six feet long."
"Do you fink," asked Dimples, with his big, solemn, grey eyes wide open,
"there was ever a boa-'strictor forty-five feet long?"
"No, dear; I never heard of one."
"Perhaps there was one, but you never heard of it. Do you fink you would have
heard of a boa-'strictor forty-five feet long if there was one in South America?"
"Well, there may have been one."
"Daddy," said Laddie, carrying on the cross-examination with the intense
earnestness of a child, "could a boa-contrictor swallow any small animal?"
"Yes, of course he could."
"Could he swallow a jaguar?"
"Well, I don't know about that. A jaguar is a very large animal."
"Well, then," asked Dimples, "could a jaguar swallow a boa-'strictor?"
"Silly ass," said Laddie. "If a jaguar was only nine feet long and the
boa-constrictor was thirty-five feet long, then there would be a lot sticking
out of the jaguar's mouth. How could he swallow that?"
"He'd bite it off," said Dimples. "And then another slice for supper and
another for breakfast but, I say, Daddy, a 'stricter couldn't swallow a
porkpine, could he? He would have a sore throat all the way down."
Shrieks of laughter and a welcome rest for Daddy, who turned to his
He put down his paper with an air of conscious virtue and lit his pipe.
"What's the biggest snake you ever saw?"
"Oh, bother the snakes! I am tired of them."
But the children were never tired of them. Heredity again, for the snake was
the worst enemy of arboreal man.
"Daddy made soup out of a snake," said Laddie. "Tell us about that snake, Daddy."
Children like a story best the fourth or fifth time, so it is never any use
to tell them that they know all about it. The story which they can check and
correct is their favourite.
"Well, dear, we got a viper and we killed it. Then we wanted the skeleton to
keep and we didn't know how to get it. At first we thought we would bury it, but
that seemed too slow. Then I had the idea to boil all the viper's flesh off its
bones, and I got an old meat-tin and we put the viper and some water into it and
put it above the fire."
"You hung it on a hook, Daddy?"
"Yes, we hung it on the hook that they put the porridge pot on in Scotland.
Then just as it was turning brown in came the farmer's wife, and ran up to see
what we were cooking. When she saw the viper she thought we were going to eat
it. 'Oh, you dirty divils!' she cried, and caught up the tin in her apron and
threw it out of the window."
Fresh shrieks of laughter from the children, and Dimples repeated "You dirty
divil!" until Daddy had to clump him playfully on the head.
"Tell us some more about snakes," cried Laddie. "Did you ever see a really
"One that would turn you black and dead you in five minutes?" said Dimples.
It was always the most awful thing that appealed to Dimples.
"Yes, I have seen some beastly creatures. Once in the Sudan I was dozing on
the sand when I opened my eyes and there was a horrid creature like a big slug
with horns, short and thick, about a foot long, moving away in front of me."
"What was it, Daddy?" Six eager eyes were turned up to him.
"It was a death-adder. I expect that would dead you in five minutes, Dimples,
if it got a bite at you."
"Did you kill it?"
"No; it was gone before I could get to it."
"Which is the horridest, Daddy a snake or a shark?"
"I'm not very fond of either!"
"Did you ever see a man eaten by sharks?"
"No, dear, but I was not so far off being eaten myself."
"Oo!" from all three of them.
"I did a silly thing, for I swam round the ship in water where there are many
sharks. As I was drying myself on the deck I saw the high fin of a shark above
the water a little way off. It had heard the splashing and come up to look for
"Weren't you frightened, Daddy?"
"Yes. It made me feel rather cold." There was silence while Daddy saw once
more the golden sand of the African beach and the snow-white roaring surf, with
the long, smooth swell of the bar.
Children don't like silences.
"Daddy," said Laddie. "Do zebus bite?"
"Zebus! Why, they are cows. No, of course not."
"But a zebu could butt with its horns."
"Oh, yes, it could butt."
"Do you think a zebu could fight a crocodile?"
"Well, I should back the crocodile."
"Well, dear, the crocodile has great teeth and would eat the zebu."
"But suppose the zebu came up when the crocodile was not looking and butted
"Well, that would be one up for the zebu. But one butt wouldn't hurt a
"No, one wouldn't, would it? But the zebu would keep on. Crocodiles live on
sand-banks, don't they? Well, then, the zebu would come and live near the
sand-bank too just so far as the crocodile would never see him. Then every time
the crocodile wasn't looking the zebu would butt him. Don't you think he would
beat the crocodile?"
"Well, perhaps he would."
"How long do you think it would take the zebu to beat the crocodile?"
"Well, it would depend upon how often he got in his butt."
"Well, suppose he butted him once every three hours, don't you think?"
"Oh, bother the zebu!"
"That's what the crocodile would say," cried Laddie, clapping his hands.
"Well, I agree with the crocodile," said Daddy.
"And it's time all good children were in bed," said the Lady as the glimmer
of the Nurse's apron was seen in the gloom.
2. ABOUT CRICKET
Supper was going on down below and all good children should have been long
ago in the land of dreams. Yet a curious noise came from above.
"What on earth?" asked Daddy.
"Laddie practising cricket," said the Lady, with the curious clairvoyance of
motherhood. "He gets out of bed to bowl. I do wish you would go up and speak
seriously to him about it, for it takes quite an hour off his rest."
Daddy departed upon his mission intending to be gruff, and my word, he can be
quite gruff when he likes! When he reached the top of the stairs, however, and
heard the noise still continue, he walked softly down the landing and peeped in
through the half-opened door.
The room was dark save for a night-light. In the dim glimmer he saw a little
white-clad figure, slight and supple, taking short steps and swinging its arm in
the middle of the room.
"Halloa!" said Daddy.
The white-clad figure turned and ran forward to him.
"Oh, Daddy, how jolly of you to come up!"
Daddy felt that gruffness was not quite so easy as it had seemed.
"Look here! You get into bed!" he said, with the best imitation he could
"Yes, Daddy. But before I go, how is this?" He sprang forward and the arm
swung round again in a swift and graceful gesture. Daddy was a moth-eaten
cricketer of sorts, and he took it in with a critical eye.
"Good, Laddie. I like a high action. That's the real Spofforth swing."
"Oh, Daddy, come and talk about cricket!" He was pulled on the side of the
bed, and the white figure dived between the sheets.
"Yes; tell us about cwicket!" came a cooing voice from the corner. Dimples
was sitting up in his cot.
"You naughty boy! I thought one of you was asleep, anyhow. I mustn't stay. I
keep you awake."
"Who was Popoff?" cried Laddie, clutching at his father's sleeve. "Was he a
very good bowler?"
"Spofforth was the best bowler that ever walked on to a cricket-field. He was
the great Australian Bowler and he taught us a great deal."
"Did he ever kill a dog?" from Dimples.
"No, boy. Why?"
"Because Laddie said there was a bowler so fast that his ball went frue a
coat and killed a dog."
"Oh, that's an old yarn. I heard that when I was a little boy about some
bowler whose name, I think, was Jackson."
"Was it a big dog?"
"No, no, son; it wasn't a dog at all."
"It was a cat," said Dimples.
"No; I tell you it never happened."
"But tell us about Spofforth," cried Laddie. Dimples, with his imaginative
mind, usually wandered, while the elder came eagerly back to the point. "Was he
"He could be very fast. I have heard cricketers who had played against him
say that his yorker that is a ball which is just short of a full pitch was the
fastest ball in England. I have myself seen his long arm swing round and the
wicket go down before ever the batsman had time to ground his bat."
"Oo!" from both beds.
"He was a tall, thin man, and they called him the Fiend. That means the
Devil, you know."
"And was he the Devil?"
"No, Dimples, no. They called him that because he did such wonderful things
with the ball."
"Can the Devil do wonderful things with a ball?"
Daddy felt that he was propagating devil-worship and hastened to get to safer
"Spofforth taught us how to bowl and Blackham taught us how to keep wicket.
When I was young we always had another fielder, called the long-stop, who stood
behind the wicket-keeper. I used to be a thick, solid boy, so they put me as
long-stop, and the balls used to bounce off me, I remember, as if I had been a
"But after Blackham came wicket-keepers had to learn that they were there to
stop the ball. Even in good second-class cricket there were no more long-stops.
We soon found plenty of good wicket-keeps like Alfred Lyttelton and MacGregor
but it was Blackham who showed us how. To see Spofforth, all india-rubber and
ginger, at one end bowling, and Blackham, with his black beard over the bails
waiting for the ball at the other end, was worth living for, I can tell
Silence while the boys pondered over this. But Laddie feared Daddy would go,
so he quickly got in a question. If Daddy's memory could only be kept going
there was no saying how long they might keep him.
"Was there no good bowler until Spofforth came?"
"Oh, plenty, my boy. But he brought something new with him. Especially change
of pace you could never tell by his action up to the last moment whether you
were going to get a ball like a flash of lightning, or one that came slow but
full of devil and spin. But for mere command of the pitch of a ball I should
think Alfred Shaw, of Nottingham, was the greatest bowler I can remember. It was
said that he could pitch a ball twice in three times upon a half-crown!"
"Oo!" And then from Dimples:
"Well, anybody's half-crown."
"Did he get the half-crown?"
"No, no; why should he?"
"Because he put the ball on it."
"The half-crown was kept there always for people to aim at," explained
"No, no, there never was a half-crown."
Murmurs of remonstrance from both boys.
"I only meant that he could pitch the ball on anything a half-crown or
"Daddy," with the energy of one who has a happy idea. "Could he have pitched
it on the batsman's toe?"
"Yes, boy, I think so."
"Well, then, suppose he always pitched it on the batsman's toe!"
"Perhaps that is why dear old W. G. always stood with his left toe cocked up
in the air."
"On one leg?"
"No, no, Dimples. With his heel down and his toe up."
"Did you know W.G., Daddy?"
"Oh, yes, I knew him quite well."
"Was he nice?"
"Yes, he was splendid. He was always like a great jolly schoolboy who was
hiding behind a huge black beard."
"I meant that he had a great bushy beard. He looked like the pirate chief in
your picture-books, but he had as kind a heart as a child. I have been told that
it was the terrible things in this war that really killed him. Grand old
"Was he the best bat in the world, Daddy?"
"Of course he was," said Daddy, beginning to enthuse, to the delight of the
clever little plotter in the bed. "There never was such a bat never in the world
and I don't believe there ever could be again. He didn't play on smooth wickets,
as they do now. He played where the wickets were all patchy, and you had to
watch the ball right on to the bat. You couldn't look at it before it hit the
ground and think, 'That's all right. I know where that one will be!' My word,
that was cricket. What you got you earned."
"Did you ever see W. G. make a hundred, Daddy?"
"See him! I've fielded out for him and melted on a hot August day while he
made a hundred and fifty. There's a pound or two of your Daddy somewhere on that
field yet. But I loved to see it, and I was always sorry when he got out for
nothing, even if I were playing against him."
"Did he ever get out for nothing?"
"Yes, dear; the first time I ever played in his company he was given out
leg-before-wicket before he made a run. And all the way to the pavilion that's
where people go when they are out he was walking forward, but his big black
beard was backward over his shoulder as he told the umpire what he thought."
"And what did he think?"
"More than I can tell you, Dimples. But I dare say he was right to be
annoyed, for it was a left-handed bowler, bowling round the wicket, and it is
very hard to get leg-before to that. However, that's all Greek to you."
"Well, I mean you can't understand that. Now I am going."
"No, no, Daddy; wait a moment! Tell us about Bonner and the big catch."
"Oh, you know about that!"
Two little coaxing voices came out of the darkness.
"Oh, please! Please!"
"I don't know what your mother will say I What was it you asked?"
"Ah, Bonner!" Daddy looked out in the gloom and saw green fields and golden
sunlight, and great sportsmen long gone to their rest. "Bonner was a wonderful
man. He was a giant in size."
"As big as you, Daddy?"
Daddy seized his elder boy and shook him playfully. "I heard what you said to
Miss Cregan the other day. When she asked you what an acre was you said 'Abqut
the size of Daddy.'"
Both boys gurgled.
"But Bonner was five inches taller than I. He was a giant, I tell you."
"Did nobody kill him?"
"No, no, Dimples. Not a story-book giant. But a great, strong man. He had a
splendid figure and blue eyes and a golden beard, and altogether he was the
finest man I have ever seen except perhaps one."
"Who was the one, Daddy?"
"Well, it was the Emperor Frederick of Germany."
"A Jarman!" cried Dimples, in horror.
"Yes, a German. Mind you, boys, a man may be a very noble man and be a German
though what has become of the noble ones these last three years is more than I
can guess. But Frederick was noble and good, as you could see on his face. How
he ever came to be the father of such a blasphemous braggart!" Daddy sank into
"Bonner, Daddy!" said Laddie, and Daddy came back from politics with a start.
"Oh, yes, Bonner. Bonner in white flannels on the green sward with an English
June sun upon him. That was a picture of a man! But you asked me about the
catch. It was in a test match at the Oval England against Australia. Bonner said
before he went in that he would hit Alfred Shaw into the next county, and he set
out to do it. Shaw, as I have told you, could keep a very good length, so for
some time Bonner could not get the ball he wanted, but at last he saw his
chance, and he jumped out and hit that ball the most awful ker-wallop that ever was seen in a cricket-field."
"Oo!" from both boys, and then: "Did it go into the next county, Daddy?" from Dimples.
"Well, I'm telling you!" said Daddy, who was always testy when one of his
stories was interrupted. "Bonner thought he had made the ball a half-volley that
is the best ball to hit but Shaw had deceived him and the ball was really on the
short side. So when Bonner hit it, up and up it went, until it looked as if it
were going out of sight into the sky."
"At first everybody thought it was going far outside the ground. But soon
they saw that all the giant's strength had been wasted in hitting the ball so
high, and that there was a chance that it would fall within the ropes. The
batsmen had run three runs and it was still in the air. Then it was seen that an
English fielder was standing on the very edge of the field with his back on the
ropes, a white figure against the black line of the people. He stood watching
the mighty curve of the ball, and twice he raised his hands together above his
head as he did so. Then a third time he raised his hands above his head, and the
ball was in them and Bonner was out."
"Why did he raise his hands twice?"
"I don't know. He did so."
"And who was the fielder, Daddy?"
"The fielder was G. F. Grace, the younger brother of W. G. Only a few months
afterwards he was a dead man. But he had one grand moment in his life, with
twenty thousand people all just mad with excitement. Poor G.F.! He died too soon."
"Did you ever catch a catch like that, Daddy?"
"No, boy. I was never a particularly good fielder."
"Did you never catch a good catch?"
"Well, I won't say that. You see, the best catches are very often flukes, and
I remember one awful fluke of that sort."
"Do tell us, Daddy?"
"Well, dear, I was fielding at slip. That is very near the wicket, you know.
Woodcock was bowling, and he had the name of being the fastest bowler of England
at that time. It was just the beginning of the match and the ball was quite red.
Suddenly I saw something like a red flash and there was the ball stuck in my
left hand. I had not time to move it. It simply came and stuck."
"I saw another catch like that. It was done by Ulyett, a fine Yorkshire
player such a big, upstanding fellow. He was bowling, and the batsman--it was an
Australian in a test match--hit as hard as ever he could. Ulyett could not have
seen it, but he just stuck out his hand and there was the ball."
"Suppose it had hit his body?"
"Well, it would have hurt him."
"Would he have cried?" from Dimples.
"No, boy. That is what games are for, to teach you to take a knock and never
show it. Supposing that--"
A step was heard coming along the passage.
"Good gracious, boys, here's Mumty. Shut your eyes this moment. It's all
right, dear. I spoke to them very severely and I think they are nearly asleep."
"What have you been talking about?" asked the Lady.
"Cwicket!" cried Dimples.
"It's natural enough," said Daddy; "of course when two boys--"
"Three," said the Lady, as she tucked up the little beds.
The three children were sitting together in a bunch upon the rug in the
gloaming. Baby was talking, so Daddy behind his newspaper pricked up his ears,
for the young lady was silent as a rule, and every glimpse of her little mind
was of interest. She was nursing the disreputable little downy quilt which she
called Wriggly and much preferred to any of her dolls.
"I wonder if they will let Wriggly into heaven," she said.
The boys laughed. They generally laughed at what Baby said.
"If they won't I won't go in, either," she added.
"Nor me, neither, if they don't let in my Teddy-bear," said Dimples.
"I'll tell them it is a nice, clean, blue Wriggly," said Baby. "I love my
Wriggly." She cooed over it and hugged it.
"What about that, Daddy?" asked Laddie, in his earnest fashion. "Are there
toys in heaven, do you think?"
"Of course there are. Everything that can make children happy."
"As many toys as in Hamley's shop?" asked Dimples.
"More," said Daddy, stoutly.
"Oo!" from all three.
"Daddy, dear," said Laddie, "I've been wondering about the deluge."
"Yes, dear. What was it?"
"Well, the story about the Ark. All those animals were in the Ark, just two
of each, for forty days. Wasn't that so?"
"That is the story."
"Well then, what did the carnivorous animals eat?"
One should be honest with children and not put them off with ridiculous
explanations. Their questions about such matters are generally much more
sensible than their parents' replies.
"Well, dear," said Daddy, weighing his words, "these stories are very, very
old. The Jews put them in the Bible, but they got them from the people in
Babylon, and the people in Babylon probably got them from some one else away
back in the beginning of things. If a story gets passed down like that, one
person adds a little and another adds a little, and so you never get things
quite as they happened. The Jews put it in the Bible exactly as they heard it,
but it had been going about for thousands of years before then."
"So it was not true?"
"Yes, I think it was true. I think there was a great flood, and I think that
some people did escape, and that they saved their beasts, just as we should try
to save Nigger and the Monkstown cocks and hens if we were flooded out. Then
they were able to start again when the waters went down, and they were naturally
very grateful to God for their escape."
"What did the people who didn't escape think about it?"
"Well, we can't tell that."
"They wouldn't be very grateful, would they?"
"Their time was come," said Daddy, who was a bit of a Fatalist. "I expect it
was the best thing."
"It was jolly hard luck on Noah being swallowed by a fish after all his
trouble," said Dimples.
"Silly ass! It was Jonah that was swallowed. Was it a whale, Daddy?"
"A whale! Why, a whale couldn't swallow a herring!"
"A shark, then?"
"Well, there again you have an old story which has got twisted and turned a
good deal. No doubt he was a holy man who had some great escape at sea, and then
the sailors and others who admired him invented this wonder."
"Daddy," said Dimples, suddenly, "should we do just the same as Jesus did?"
"Yes, dear; He was the noblest Person that ever lived."
"Well, did Jesus lie down every day from twelve to one?"
"I don't know that He did."
"Well, then, I won't lie down from twelve to one."
"If Jesus had been a growing boy and had been ordered to lie down by His
Mumty and the Doctor, I am sure He would have done so."
"Did He take malt extract?"
"He did what He was told, my son I am sure of that. He was a good man, so He
must have been a good boy perfect in all He did."
"Baby saw God yesterday," remarked Laddie, casually.
Daddy dropped his paper.
"Yes, we made up our mind we would all lie on our backs and stare at the sky
until we saw God. So we put the big rug on the lawn and then we all lay down
side by side, and stared and stared. I saw nothing, and Dimples saw nothing, but Baby says she saw God."