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Rag, Tag and Bobtail and Other Magical Stories, Page 2

Enid Blyton

  The animal did not know that the well was a wishing-well! Whatever you wished when drawing water from the well, came true – and if anyone wished a wish right inside the well, the wish came true at once.

  And so the cat’s wish came true! As soon as someone came to draw water, the cat climbed into the bucket and was hauled safely to the top of the well, wet and shivering. She felt strange, because she was full of magic. She hopped on to the brick wall round the well and began to lick herself.

  Tim was playing in the garden next door. He took up a stone and threw it at a sparrow. The cat lifted her head, and, much surprised at herself, said in a loud voice: ‘Birds, throw stones at Tim!’

  At once all the sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds, robins and starlings picked up stones in their beaks and dropped them on Tim! He was frightened and astonished to find big and little stones dropping on his bare head.

  He ran away – and the cat saw him and cried out: ‘Dogs! Chase this boy as he has so many times chased you!’

  At once all the dogs around jumped up and ran after Tim. He tore away, yelling with fear, but nobody came to his help. The dogs rushed after him, and one of them nipped his fat leg. Another jumped and bit his thumb. This was a dog that Tim had beaten with a stick and he was glad to punish the horrid little boy.

  ‘Now, cats, it’s your turn!’ cried the cat on the well. ‘Find some old tin cans on the rubbish-heap and tie them to his coat! Then make him run and see how he likes the horrible clanking noise behind him!’

  At once about eight cats of all sizes and colours rushed to the rubbish-heap and found some old tins. They carried them to the corner where the dogs were snarling at Tim and between them they fastened the tins by string to the boy’s coat. Then the dogs set him running again, and when poor Tim heard the awful clinking-clanking noise behind him, he was more frightened than ever, and tore on faster and faster.

  The cans flew off, one after another, as they banged against the road. But Tim still ran, frightened out of his life, chased by half the dogs and cats in the town. At last he stumbled up to the old well and leaned against it, panting.

  ‘Let’s push him in!’ cried the first cat. ‘He pushed me in! Let’s push him in!’

  ‘No, no!’ begged Tim, frightened. ‘No, please, please don’t. I’ve learnt my lesson. I know what it is to be hurt and frightened. I didn’t know before. I’ll never, never throw stones again or chase you or be unkind. I’ll always be good and careful with animals.’

  ‘Well,’ said a little brown dog to the cat, ‘shall we let him? Once he gave me a drink of water when I was thirsty – so for the sake of that one kind deed, shall we let him go?’

  ‘Very well,’ said the cat, licking herself, ‘for the sake of that one kind deed. It’s a good thing he did one kind act in his life!’

  ‘I’ll do heaps more now!’ promised Tim, sobbing. ‘I’d no idea how horrid I’d been to you. I didn’t think. But I’m going to be different now. Let me lie down here in the sunshine and rest. My legs are so tired and I am full of bumps where the stones hit me.’

  So the animals allowed him to lie down and fall asleep. The birds flew back to the trees and forgot about him. The dogs went back to their kennels, yawning. The cats lay down in the sun and slept. Only the cat that had fallen down the well was awake – but she soon settled down in the sun and fell asleep too, dreaming with delight of how she had punished that horrid boy, Tim.

  When she awoke the magic had gone out of her. She was just an ordinary cat, and she had forgotten all about her wish that had come true. Tim woke up too – but he hadn’t forgotten. He sat up and wondered if he had dreamt it all. But there were bumps and bruises on his head and arms, so he thought it must really have happened.

  He went back home, thinking hard. He saw a cat on a wall, and to that animal’s great surprise he stroked it! He met a dog and patted it! The dog was astonished, and licked Tim’s hand. Tim was pleased to feel its little pink tongue.

  ‘I’ve learnt my lesson,’ he thought. ‘Oh dear, what a dreadful dream that was! Or was it a dream? I really don’t know!’

  Tim’s mother couldn’t think what had happened to Tim after that. He put crumbs out for the birds. He bought a little tin trough and kept it full of water for dogs to drink in the hot weather. He brought home a stray cat that somebody had left behind and begged his mother to keep it.

  ‘Well, you’re a different boy, Tim!’ said his mother, pleased. ‘Goodness knows what’s happened to you! Perhaps the dogs and cats treated you as you used to treat them and taught you a lesson. Something’s changed you, anyway!’

  Tim didn’t tell his mother what had happened – he was much too ashamed – but he told me his story to tell to you, and that’s how I know all about it. Wasn’t it a strange thing to happen?

  The Surprising Hoop-Sticks

  Once upon a time there were two little gnomes called Tups and Twinkle. They were very fond of all kinds of toys, and they had beautiful sailing-ships, fine spinning-tops, big kites and all sorts of things.

  They were very pleased with themselves one day because they had made two hoops. You should have seen those hoops! They were as big as the gnomes themselves and they were painted all sorts of colours. Tied to the inside edge of the hoops were tiny bells that rang when the hoops were bowled along.

  All the gnomes were busy making hoops for themselves as soon as they saw those of Tups and Twinkle. What a tinkling and jingling there was in Heigho Village when all the hoops were set rolling!

  ‘Let’s have a Grand Hoop-Race,’ said Tups one day to the others. ‘That would be fun. We could start at one end of the village and finish up at the other.’

  ‘That’s a good idea,’ said all the gnomes. So they made plans for a great hoop-race, and the prize was to be three gold pennies to spend at the cake-shop and at the sweet-shop.

  Tups and Twinkle practised bowling their hoops every morning and evening, for they meant to win the prize.

  ‘We could have peppermints from the sweet-shop and currant buns from the cake-shop every day for a year if we won the prize,’ said Tups.

  ‘I wish we could be quite sure of winning it,’ said Twinkle. ‘I wish we could get some hoop-sticks that would bowl our hoops faster than anyone else’s.’

  Twinkle looked at Tups and Tups looked at Twinkle. Then they sat down and thought hard, and it wasn’t long before Tups had a bright idea.

  ‘I say, Twinkle!’ he said. ‘I know what we’ll do. We’ll go to Wizard Too-Wise’s garden after supper tonight, when it’s dark, and we’ll cut ourselves two nice strong hoop-sticks from the wishing-tree in his front garden. Then we’ll use them for our hoops on the race day and we’ll be sure to win the prize!’

  So that night when it was dark the two naughty gnomes went along to Wizard Too-Wise’s house. They knew exactly where the wishing-tree was, and it didn’t take them long to cut themselves two fine sticks from it. Then off they went – but the gate creaked as they went out and the wizard heard it.

  ‘Robbers!’ he cried, looking out of the window. ‘Thieves! Burglars! May whatever you steal bring you back to me to punish!’

  ‘Ooh!’ said Tups and Twinkle, running away as fast as they could. ‘We were nearly caught!’

  They hadn’t heard what the wizard said, and they would have been very much worried if they had; for his magic was powerful and never failed. They soon forgot their fright and put away their new hoop-sticks in the cupboard to wait for the great hoop-race.

  The day came at last, and proudly the two little gnomes took their hoops to the edge of the village to join all the others. What a number of hoops there were! Green ones, blue ones, red, yellow, purple and orange ones, and some like Tups’s and Twinkle’s, all colours of the rainbow with little bells inside.

  The two gnomes had their new hoop-sticks from the wizard’s wishing-tree. They hadn’t used them yet. They were busy wishing that their hoop-sticks should make their hoops go faster than any other gnome’s so that they would be sure
to win the prize.

  Off they all went. Tap-tap-tap went the hoop-sticks on the rolling hoops. Down the winding village street ran a score of panting gnomes with their bright hoops, and far in front of everyone were Tups and Twinkle, their hoops tinkling merrily as they ran.

  ‘We shall win!’ shouted Tups to Twinkle. ‘Aren’t our new sticks wonderful? They make our hoops go like the wind!’

  But dear me, what a peculiar thing happened when the race was over! Tups and Twinkle won easily, and just as the prize was being given to them, something curious happened. Their feet and hands bent over and joined one another, and in a trice they were rolling over and over just like hoops! They were like big wheels rolling along – and oh, dear me, what was this that the hoop-sticks were doing?

  The sticks leapt up in the air and began to hit the rolling, bowling gnomes, driving them along fast! Smack! Smack! Smack! How those sticks hurt when they hit the rolling gnomes! Tups and Twinkle shouted in pain and fright, and all the other gnomes looked on in amazement.

  Back up the village street went the bowling gnomes, rolling along merrily in the dust, the two magic hoop-sticks hitting them hard all the time. At last they came to Wizard Too-Wise’s house and the gnomes rolled in at the gate, the hoop-sticks behind them.

  Wizard Too-Wise was watering his wishing-tree and when he saw the two gnomes coming in at his gate, rolling up his garden path, he set down his can and roared till the tears ran down his cheeks. The gnomes had never seen him laugh so much before.

  ‘So here are the thieves come back to me!’ he said at last. ‘Dear, dear, dear, what a very comical sight! So you thought you would get magic hoop-sticks, did you, and win the prize by cheating? Well, well, this is a very good punishment for you. Would you like to keep your magic hoop-sticks, Tups and Twinkle? They will be very pleased to bowl you anywhere you want to go.’

  ‘Oh no, no,’ said the gnomes, weeping bitterly. ‘Take them away, and please, please, forgive us. We were very wrong. We will never cheat again. We might have won the prize if we had used our own hoop-sticks, but now we have lost it, and have been bowled all round the village for everyone to see. We are very bruised and ashamed. Please forgive us and let us go.’

  The wizard said a few words and the hoop-sticks flew back to the wishing-tree and grew there again as branches. The gnomes found themselves able to stand upright, and, very red in the face, they walked back home, dusty, dirty and bruised.

  ‘We will never, never cheat again in anything we do,’ they said solemnly to one another.

  And you may be quite sure they never, never did!

  The Little Pinching Girl

  Nobody liked Elsie, because she was always pinching people. Wasn’t it horrid of her? At school she pinched the little boy who sat next to her and made him cry out. At home she pinched her little sister and the twins next door. When she went out to play she pinched the children near to her, and they didn’t like it at all.

  Elsie’s mother was cross with her.

  ‘Why don’t you stop pinching people?’ she said. ‘They don’t like it, because it hurts them. You are a very unkind child, Elsie, to pinch others. It is a stupid habit and you must stop it, or you will be very sorry.’

  But Elsie didn’t stop. She pinched Joan, and she pinched Tom. She pinched Alan, and she pinched Willie – but she didn’t pinch Big Mary, because Big Mary could slap very hard. She really was a very horrid little girl.

  And then one day something happened. She went down to the seaside for her Sunday School treat. It was great fun, because all the children went in motor-coaches, and they were very much excited about it. Elsie was so excited that she pinched children all the way, so that nobody wanted to sit next to her. But somebody had to, of course, so Elsie always had some poor child to pinch.

  When they arrived at the seaside they all went to the sands and sat down to eat their dinner. Elsie was hungry and she soon finished hers. Afterwards she felt sleepy and she lay down by a big sand-castle and shut her eyes.

  She hadn’t shut them for more than a moment when she heard voices not far from her.

  ‘This must be our dear little friend,’ said one of the voices. ‘How nice it is to see her!’

  ‘Yes, this is Elsie,’ said another voice. ‘We must shake hands with her and tell her how very pleased we are to see her.’

  Elsie opened her eyes and sat up with a jerk. Who was talking?

  She saw a very strange sight. Two large lobsters were sitting against the sand-castle, looking at her with broad smiles on their funny faces. She stared at them in astonishment.

  ‘Oh, good morning, Elsie,’ said one of the lobsters, holding out a great pincer-paw to the surprised little girl. ‘We are so pleased to see you. We know you are a great friend of ours.’

  Elsie put out her hand to shake the lobster’s claw – and how she shouted and yelled! The lobster was pinching her fingers in its trap-like claw, and wouldn’t let go.

  ‘Let go!’ shouted Elsie, with tears in her eyes. ‘Oh, you horrid creature, you’re hurting me!’

  ‘But I’m only pinching you,’ said the lobster in surprise. ‘You are very fond of pinching, aren’t you? That is why we are so pleased to welcome you here as our dear little friend. We are fond of pinching too.’

  ‘Will you let my hand go?’ wept Elsie, trying to take her hand away from the lobster’s great claw. At last he let it go, and the little girl nursed her pinched hand and glared angrily at the big lobster. The other lobster leaned forward and held his claw to shake hands. But Elsie wouldn’t touch it.

  ‘No, you horrid creature,’ she said. ‘I’m not going to have my hand pinched again!’

  ‘How impolite you are not to shake hands with me!’ said the lobster, shocked. He came closer to Elsie and took hold of her arm. Dear me, how he pinched with his big claws! Elsie screamed and tried to shake off his claw, but she couldn’t.

  ‘What’s the matter, now, what’s the matter?’ asked the lobster, surprised. ‘You’re a pincher, aren’t you? You love pinching, I know, so why do you make such a fuss when you meet two nice pinchers like ourselves? We thought you would be very pleased to see us.’

  ‘Well, I’m not, then,’ said Elsie, wishing with all her heart that she had never pinched anyone in her life.

  ‘Perhaps she will be better pleased to meet our cousins the crabs,’ said the first lobster. ‘Here they come.’

  Elsie saw about a dozen crabs hurrying up the beach, some large and some small, all waving their pincer-like claws to her as they came scuttling up sideways.

  They crowded round her and soon began to nip her bare legs and toes.

  ‘Ooh!’ cried Elsie, trying to get her legs safely under her. ‘Stop nipping me, you horrid little things!’

  The crabs looked at her in astonishment.

  ‘Aren’t you a pincher too?’ they asked. ‘We thought you were the little girl who loves pinching.’

  ‘Well, I don’t like being pinched,’ wept Elsie. ‘Do go away.’

  ‘Why don’t you pinch us?’ said the crabs. ‘You can pinch us back, you know. We expect it.’

  Elsie tried to pinch a crab very hard. But it had a thick shell and it didn’t mind a bit. It caught hold of her thumb and nipped it.

  ‘This is a fine game!’ cried the crabs and lobsters excitedly. ‘Come on, Elsie – you try to pinch us, and we’ll try to pinch you!’

  But it wasn’t a fair game, because Elsie’s hands and legs were soft and it hurt her to be pinched. The crabs and lobsters all wore hard shells and they couldn’t be pinched. Elsie kicked at them and tried to knock them away.

  ‘Don’t you like us?’ said the big lobsters sadly. ‘We did so look forward to your coming to the seaside. We thought it would be so nice to welcome another member of the pinching family. Do play with us, Elsie. You pinch other children hundreds of times a day – why can’t you play at pinching with us?’

  ‘I’m never never going to pinch anyone again,’ wept Elsie. ‘I didn’t know it could b
e so horrid. I don’t belong to your nasty pinching family. I’m going to be a nice kind little girl who doesn’t pinch or slap or pull hair. I’m ashamed of myself for being like crabs and lobsters, so there!’

  When the crabs and lobsters heard her saying this they all cried out in horror and scuttled down the shore to the sea as fast as ever they could.

  ‘She’s not a friend of ours!’ they shouted. ‘She isn’t a pincher any more!’

  Elsie wiped her eyes with her handkerchief and looked round. Someone was coming towards her. It was her Sunday School teacher.

  ‘Come along and play, Elsie!’ she cried. ‘Have you been asleep?’

  ‘No,’ said Elsie, scrambling to her feet. ‘But I’ve had a very nasty adventure. Do you know, some crabs and lobsters came and told me I belonged to their nasty pinching family, and they wanted me to play pinching each other with them. And I told them I’m never going to pinch anyone again.’

  ‘I’m very glad,’ said her teacher. ‘People will like you much better if you are kind and gentle.’

  Elsie has never pinched anyone from that day – and the other children don’t mind sitting next to her now. I’m glad I don’t pinch people, aren’t you? I wouldn’t like to play with crabs and lobsters at all!

  The Tale of Flop and Whiskers

  Flop and Whiskers were two white rabbits belonging to Malcolm and Jean. They had fine whiskers, little black bobtails and big floppy ears. Malcolm and Jean were very fond of them and looked after them well.

  Flop and Whiskers lived happily enough in a big cage. They were friendly with one another, but sometimes they found things dull.

  ‘Oh, if only something exciting would happen!’ Flop would sigh.