The Extra Day
4. 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."