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«Bed-Knob and Broomstick», Mary Norton

Bed-Knob and Broomstick - Norton, Mary

В В В HOW THEY MET HEROnce upon a time there were three children, and their names were Carey, Charles,and Paul. Carey was about your age, Charles a little younger, and Paul was onlysix.

 

One summer, they were sent to Bedfordshire to stay with an aunt. She was an old aunt and she lived in an old square house-which lay in a garden where noflowers grew. There were lawns and shrubs and cedars but no flowers, which madethe garden seem grave and sad.

 

The children were shy of the house, with its big hall and wide stairways; theywere shy of Elizabeth-the stern old housemaid-and they were shy of their aunt, too, because she had pale blue eyes with pinkish edges and did not often smile.But they loved the garden and river that ran through it and the countrysidebeyond with its tangled hedges and sweet meadow grass.

 

They were out all day.

 

They played in the barns, they played by the river, and they played in the lanes and on the hills. They were punctual for meals because they were visitors andgood children at heart. One day slipped into another, and all the days werealike-until Miss Price hurt her ankle. Andthat's where the story begins.

 

You all know somebody rather like Miss Price. She wore gray coats and skirts and had a long thin neck with a scarf round it made of Liberty silk with a Paisleypattern. Her nose was sharply pointed, and she had very clean, pink hands. Sherode on a high bicycle with a basket in front, and she visited the sick andtaught the piano. She lived in a neat little house that stood in a lane at thebottom of the garden, and the children knew her by sight and always said "Good morning." In all the village there was none so ladylike as Miss Price.

 

Now, one day, the children decided to go mushroom-picking before breakfast.They awoke almost before the night had drained away from the sleeping houseand tiptoed through the hall in their stocking feet. When they got outside,the garden was very still and drenched in dew, and, as they walked, their shoes left black smudges in the pearly grass. They spokein whispers because it seemed as if the world, except the birds, were stillasleep.

 

Suddenly, Paul stood still, staring down the slope of the lawn towards the darknessof the cedars. "What's that?"They all stopped and they all stared.

 

"It moved," Paul told them. "Come on, let's see."Carey sped ahead on her long legs. "It's a person," she called back,and then her step grew slower. She waited until they caught up with her. "It's-"her voice was hushed with surprise-"it's Miss Price!"And so it was, sitting there on the wet ground under the cedar. Her gray coat and skirt were torn and crumpled, and her hair hung down in wisps.

 

"Oh, poor Miss Price," cried Carey, running up, "what-ever'sthe matter? Have you hurt yourself?"Miss Price looked back with frightened eyes, and then she looked away.

 

"It's my ankle," she muttered.

 

Carey fell on her knees in the damp grass. Miss Price's ankle was indeed thestrangest shape. "Oh, poor Miss Price," cried Carey again, and thetears came to her eyes. "It must hurt terribly.""It does," said Miss Price.

 

"Run to the house, Charles," ordered Carey, "and tell them toring up the doctor."Then a strange look came over Miss Price's face, and her eyes opened wide as if with fright. "No, no," she stammered, gripping Carey's arm. "No,not that, just help me to get home."The children looked at her, but they were not surprised. It did not even occurto them to wonder what Miss Pricemight be doing so early in the morning in their aunt's garden.

 

"Help me to get home," repeated Miss Price. "I can put one arm round your shoulders-" She looked at Carey. "And one round his. Then,perhaps, I can hop."Paul watched seriously as Carey and Charles leaned toward Miss Price. Then hesighed. "And I'll carry this," he said obligingly, picking up a gardenbroom.

 

"We don't want that," Carey told him sharply. "Put it up againstthe tree.""But it's Miss Price's." "How do you mean-Miss Price's? It's the garden broom."Paul looked indignant. "It isn't ours. It's hers. It's what she fell off.It's what she rides on."Carey and Charles stood up, their faces red from stooping, and stared at Paul.

 

"What she rides on?""Yes. Don't you, Miss Price?"Miss Price became paler than ever. She looked from one child to another. She opened her mouth and then she shut it again, as if no words would come.

 

"You're quite good at it, aren't you, Miss Price?" Paul went on encouragingly."You weren't at first."Then Miss Price began to cry. She pulled out her handkerchief and held it overher face. "Oh, dear," she said, "oh, dear! Now I suppose everybodyknows." Carey put her arms round Miss Price's neck. It was what you always did to peoplewhen they cried.

 

"It's all right, Miss Price. Nobody knows. Nobody knows at all. Paul didn'teven tell us. It's quite all right. I think it's wonderful to ride on a broomstick.""It's very difficult," said Miss Price, but she blew her nose.

 


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