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- The Extra Day - 6/57 -
the atmosphere of marvel and disaster, and especially the constant suggestion that the end of the world was near. Antichrist she simply adored. No other hero in any book she knew came near him.
"Come and help," urged Tim, picking up an engine that lay upon its side. "Come on."
"No, thanks. I've got an Apocalypse. It's simply frightfully exciting."
"Shall we break _both_ legs?" asked Maria blandly, "or just his neck?"
"Neck," said Tim briefly. "Only they must find the heart beneath the rubbish of the luggage van."
Judy looked up in spite of herself. "Who is it?" she inquired, with an air of weighing conflicting interests.
"Mr. Jinks." It was Maria who supplied the information.
"But he's Daddy's offiss-partner man," Judy objected, though without much vim or heat.
Maria did not answer. Her eyes were glued upon the other engine.
"All black and burnt and--full of the very horridest diseases," put in Tim, referring to the heart of the destroyed Mr. Jinks beneath the engine.
He glanced up enticingly at his elder sister, whom he longed to draw into the vindictive holocaust.
"He said things to Maria," he explained persuasively, "and it's not the first time either. Last Sunday he called me 'his little man,' and he's never given me a single thing since ever I can remember, years and years ago."
Then Judy remembered that he invariably kissed her on both cheeks as though she was a silly little child.
"Oh, _that_ man!" she exclaimed, realising fully now the enormities he had committed. She appeared to hesitate a moment. Then she flung down her Apocalypse suddenly. "Put him on a scarlet horse," she cried, "pretend he's the Beast, and I'll come."
Maria's blue eyes wheeled half a circle towards Tim. She did not move her head. It signified agreement. Tim knew. Only her consent, as the insulted party, was necessary before he could approve.
"All right," he cried to Judy. "We'll put him in a special carriage with his horse, and I'll make out a label for the window, so that every one will know." He went over to the table and wrote "BEAST" in capital letters on a half-sheet of paper. The cumbersome quill pen made two spongy blots.
"It's the end of the world _really_ at the same time," decided Judy, to a chorus of general approval, "not only the end of Mr. Jinks." She liked her horrors on a proper scale.
And the railway line was quickly laid across the room from the window to the wall. The lamps of oil on both engines were lit. The trains faced one another. Mr. Jinks and his scarlet horse thought themselves quite safe in their special carriage, unaware that it was labelled "Beast" with a label that overlapped the roof and hid all view of the landscape through the windows on one side. Apparently they slept in opposite corners, with full consciousness of complete security. Mr. Jinks was tucked up with woolly rugs, and a newspaper lay across his knee. The scarlet horse had its head in a bag of oats, and its bridle was fastened to the luggage rack above. Both were supplied with iron foot-warmers. There was a _fearful_ fog; and the train was going at a _TREMENDOUS_ pace.
So was the other train. They approached, they banged, they smashed to atoms. It was the most appalling collision that had ever been heard of, and the Guard and Engine-Driver, as well as the Ticket-Collectors and Directors of the Company, were all executed by the Government the very next day from gallows that an angry London built in half an hour on the top of St. Paul's Cathedral dome.
It took place between the footstool and the fireplace in the thickest fog that England had ever known. And the horrid black heart of Mr. Jinks was discovered beneath the wreckage of a special carriage next to the luggage van. It was simply black as coal and very nasty indeed. The little boy who found it was a porter's son, whose mother was so poor that she took in washing for members of Parliament, who paid their bills irregularly because they were very busy governing Ireland. He knew it was a cinder, but did not discover it was a heart until he showed it to his mother, and his mother said it was far too black to wash.
The accident to Mr. Jinks, therefore, was a complete success. The butler helped with the mending of the engine, and Maria informed at least one Authority, "We do not know Mr. Jinks. We have other friends."
"But, remember," said Judy, "we mustn't mention it to Daddy, because Mr. Jinks is his partner-in-the-offiss."
"_Was_," said Tim. The remains they decided to send to what they called the "Hospital for Parilysed Ineebrits with Incurable Afflictions of the Heart."
FACT--EDGED WITH FANCY
But the children were not always so vindictive and blood-thirsty. All three could be very tender sometimes. Even Maria was not wholly implacable and merciless, she had a pretty side as well. Their neighbour at the Manor House, Colonel William Stumper, C.B., experienced this gentler quality in the trio. He was Mother's cousin, too.
They were inclined to like this Colonel Stumper, C.B. For one thing he limped, and that meant, they decided, that he had a wooden leg. They never called it such, of course, but indicated obliquely that the injured limb was made of oak or walnut, by referring to the other as "his living leg," "his good leg," and so forth. For another thing, he did not smile at them; and for a third, he did not ask foolish questions in an up-and-down voice (assumed for the moment), as though they were invalids, idiots, or tailless puppies who could not answer. He frowned at them. He said furiously, "How are you, creatures?" And-- he gave usually at least a shilling to each.
"That makes three shillings altogether," as Tim cleverly explained.
"But not three shillings for each of us," Maria qualified the praise. "_I_ only got one." She took it out of her mouth and showed it by way of proof.
"You'll swallow it," warned Judy, "and then you won't have none at all."
If received early in the week, they reported their good fortune to the Authorities; but if Sunday was too near, they waited. Daddy had a queer idea of teasing sometimes. "Just in time for to-morrow's collection," he would be apt to say; and though he did not really mean it perhaps, there was a hint of threat in the suggestion that quenched high spirits at the moment.
"You see, he takes the plate round," Judy told them, "and so feels ashamed." She did not explain the feeling ashamed. It was just that her father, who always did things thoroughly, had to say something, and so picked on that. "Monday or Tuesday's safest," was her judgment.
Maria rolled her eyes round like a gigantic German doll.
"Never's best," she gave as her opinion.
But that was sly. The others reproved her quickly.
"Daddy likes to know," they told her. "Monday or Tuesday's all right." They agreed just to mention the matter only. There was no need to "say a lot."
So they liked this Colonel Stumper, C.B. They liked his "title," declaring that the letters stood for "Come Back," and referring to their owner as "Come Back Stumper." Some day, when he was gone for good, he was to be promoted to K.C.B., meaning "Kan't-Come-Back." But they preferred him as he was, plain C.B., because they did not want to lose him. They declared that "Companion to the Bath" was just nonsense invented by a Radical Government. For in politics, of course, they followed their father's lead, and their father had _distinctly_ stated more than once that "the policy of a Radical Government was some- funny-word-or-other nonsense," which statement helped them enormously in forming their own opinions on several other topics as well. In personal disagreements, for instance--they never "squabbled"--the final insult was to say, "My dear, you're as silly as a something-or- other Radical Govunment," for there was no answer to this anywhere in the world.
Come-Back Stumper, therefore, though casual outsiders might never have guessed it, was a valuable ally. He was what Mother called "a character" as well, and if the children used this statement in praise of him, while adopting in their carelessness a revised version, "he has no character," this was not Come-Back Stumper's fault. He was also an "extinguished soldger," and had seen much service in foreign parts. India with its tigers, elephants, and jungles, was in his heated atmosphere deliciously, and his yellow tint, as of an unripe orange, was due to something they had learned from hearsay to describe as "curried liver trouble." All this, and especially his dead or wooden leg, was distinctly in his favour. Come-Back Stumper was real. Also, he was hard and angular in appearance, short, brisk in manner, square- shouldered, and talked like a General who was bothered about something in a battle. His opinions were most decided. His conversation consisted of negatives, refusals and blank denials. If Come-Back Stumper agreed with what was said, it meant that he was feeling unwell with an attack of curried-liver-trouble. The children understood him. He understood the children, too.
"It's a jolly morning, William," from Daddy would be met with "Might be worse" and a snort like the sneeze of the nursery cat, but a direct invitation of any sort was simply declined point blank. "Care to see The Times, William?" ensured the answer, "Oh, _no_, thanks; there's never anything worth reading in it." This was as regular as breakfast when Cousin William was staying in the house. It was, in fact, Daddy's
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