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Necklace of Raindrops

Joan Aiken

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  For Jeremy, Heidi, Jamis and Jesse


  For Grant












  A man called Mr. Jones and his wife lived near the sea. One stormy night Mr. Jones was in the garden when he saw the holly tree by his gate begin to toss and shake.

  A voice cried, “Help me! I’m stuck in the tree! Help me, or the storm will go on all night.”

  Very surprised, Mr. Jones walked down to the tree. In the middle of it was a tall man with a long gray cloak, and a long gray beard, and the brightest eyes you ever saw.

  “Who are you?” Mr. Jones said. “What are you doing in my holly tree?”

  “I got stuck in it, can’t you see? Help me out, or the storm will go on all night. I am the North Wind, and it is my job to blow the storm away.”

  So Mr. Jones helped the North Wind out of the holly tree. The North Wind’s hands were as cold as ice.

  “Thank you,” said the North Wind. “My cloak is torn, but never mind. You have helped me, so now I will do something for you.”

  “I don’t need anything,” Mr. Jones said. “My wife and I have a baby girl, just born, and we are as happy as any two people in the world.”

  “In that case,” said the North Wind, “I will be the baby’s godfather. My birthday present to her will be this necklace of raindrops.”

  From under his gray cloak he pulled out a fine silver chain. On the chain were three bright, shining drops.

  “You must put it around the baby’s neck,” he said. “The raindrops will not wet her, and they will not come off. Every year, on her birthday, I will bring her another drop. When she has four drops she will stay dry, even if she goes out in the hardest rainstorm. And when she has five drops no thunder or lightning can harm her. And when she has six drops she will not be blown away, even by the strongest wind. And when she has seven raindrops she will be able to swim the deepest river. And when she has eight raindrops she will be able to swim the widest sea. And when she has nine raindrops she will be able to make the rain stop raining if she claps her hands. And when she has ten raindrops she will be able to make it start raining if she blows her nose.”

  “Stop, stop!” cried Mr. Jones. “That is quite enough for one little girl!”

  “I was going to stop anyway,” said the North Wind. “Mind, she must never take the chain off, or it might bring bad luck. I must be off now, to blow away the storm. I shall be back on her next birthday, with the fourth raindrop.”

  And he flew away up into the sky, pushing the clouds before him so that the moon and stars could shine out.

  Mr. Jones went into his house and put the chain with the three raindrops round the neck of the baby, who was called Laura.

  A year soon went by, and when the North Wind came back to the little house by the sea, Laura was able to crawl about, and to play with her three bright, shining raindrops. But she never took the chain off.

  When the North Wind had given Laura her fourth raindrop she could not get wet, even if she was out in the hardest rain. Her mother would put her out in the garden in her carriage, and people passing on the road would say, “Look at that poor little baby, left out in all this rain. She will catch cold!”

  But little Laura was quite dry, and quite happy, playing with the raindrops and waving to her godfather the North Wind as he flew over.

  Next year he brought her her fifth raindrop. And the year after that, the sixth. And the year after that, the seventh. Now Laura could not be harmed by the worst storm, and if she fell into a pond or river she floated like a feather. And when she had eight raindrops she was able to swim across the widest sea—but as she was happy at home she had never tried.

  And when she had nine raindrops Laura found that she could make the rain stop, by clapping her hands. So there were many, many sunny days by the sea. But Laura did not always clap her hands when it rained, for she loved to see the silver drops come sliding out of the sky.

  Now it was time for Laura to go to school. You can guess how the other children loved her! They would call, “Laura, Laura, make it stop raining, please, so that we can go out to play.”

  And Laura always made the rain stop for them.

  But there was a girl called Meg who said to herself, “It isn’t fair. Why should Laura have that lovely necklace and be able to stop the rain? Why shouldn’t I have it?”

  So Meg went to the teacher and said, “Laura is wearing a necklace.”

  Then the teacher said to Laura, “You must take your necklace off in school, dear. That is the rule.”

  “But it will bring bad luck if I take it off,” said Laura.

  “Of course it will not bring bad luck. I will put it in a box for you and keep it safe till after school.”

  So the teacher put the necklace in a box.

  But Meg saw where she put it. And when the children were out playing, and the teacher was having her dinner, Meg went quickly and took the necklace and put it in her pocket.

  When the teacher found that the necklace was gone, she was very angry and sad.

  “Who has taken Laura’s necklace?” she asked.

  But nobody answered.

  Meg kept her hand tight in her pocket, holding the necklace.

  And poor Laura cried all the way home. Her tears rolled down her cheeks like rain as she walked along by the sea.

  “Oh,” she cried, “what will happen when I tell my godfather that I have lost his present?”

  A fish put his head out of the water and said, “Don’t cry, Laura dear. You put me back in the sea when a wave threw me on the sand. I will help you find your necklace.”

  And a bird flew down and called, “Don’t cry, Laura dear. You saved me when a storm blew me onto your roof and hurt my wing. I will help you find your necklace.”

  And a mouse popped his head out of a hole and said, “Don’t cry, Laura dear. You saved me once when I fell in the river. I will help you find your necklace.”

  So Laura dried her eyes. “How will you help me?” she asked.

  “I will look under the sea,” said the fish. “And I will ask my brothers to help me.”

  “I will fly about and look in the fields and woods and roads,” said the bird. “And I will ask all my brothers to help me.”

  “I will look in the houses,” said the mouse. “And I will ask my brothers to look in every corner and closet of every room in
the world.”

  So they set to work. While Laura was talking to her three friends, what was Meg doing?

  She put on the necklace and walked out in a rainstorm. But the rain made her very wet! And when she clapped her hands to stop it raining, the rain took no notice. It rained harder than ever.

  The necklace would only work for its true owner.

  So Meg was angry. But she still wore the necklace, until her father saw her with it on.

  “Where did you get that necklace?” he asked.

  “I found it in the road,” Meg said. Which was not true!

  “It is too good for a child,” her father said. And he took it away from her. Meg and her father did not know that a little mouse could see them from a hole in the wall.

  The mouse ran to tell his friends that the necklace was in Meg’s house. And ten more mice came back with him to drag it away. But when they got there the necklace was gone. Meg’s father had sold it, for a great deal of money, to a silversmith. Two days later, a little mouse saw it in the silversmith’s shop, and ran to tell his friends. But before the mice could come to take it, the silversmith had sold it to a trader who was buying fine and rare presents for the birthday of the Princess of Arabia.

  Then a bird saw the necklace and flew to tell Laura.

  “The necklace is on a ship, which is sailing across the sea to Arabia.”

  “We will follow the ship,” said the fishes. “We will tell you which way it goes. Follow us!”

  But Laura stood on the edge of the sea.

  “How can I swim all that way without my necklace?” she cried.

  “I will take you on my back,” said a dolphin. “You have often thrown me good things to eat when I was hungry.”

  So the dolphin took her on his back, and the fishes went on in front, and the birds flew above, and after many days they came to Arabia.

  “Now where is the necklace?” called the fishes to the birds.

  “The King of Arabia has it. He is going to give it to the Princess for her birthday tomorrow.”

  “Tomorrow is my birthday too,” said Laura. “Oh, what will my godfather say when he comes to give me my tenth raindrop and finds that I have not got the necklace?”

  The birds led Laura into the King’s garden. And she slept all night under a palm tree. The grass was all dry, and the flowers were all brown, because it was so hot and had not rained for a year.

  Next morning the Princess came into the garden to open her presents. She had many lovely things: a flower that could sing, and a cage full of birds with green and silver feathers; a book that she could read forever because it had no last page, and a cat who could play cat’s cradle; a silver dress of spiderwebs, and a gold dress of goldfish scales; a clock with a real cuckoo to tell the time, and a boat made out of a great pink shell. And among all the other presents was Laura’s necklace.

  When Laura saw the necklace she ran out from under the palm tree and cried, “Oh, please, that necklace is mine!”

  The King of Arabia was angry. “Who is this girl?” he said. “Who let her into my garden? Take her away and drop her in the sea!”

  But the Princess, who was small and pretty, said, “Wait a minute, Papa,” and to Laura she said, “How do you know it’s your necklace?”

  “Because my godfather gave it to me! When I am wearing it I can go out in the rain without getting wet, no storm can harm me, I can swim any river and any sea, and I can make the rain stop raining.”

  “But can you make it start to rain?” said the King.

  “Not yet,” said Laura. “Not till my godfather gives me the tenth raindrop.”

  “If you can make it rain you shall have the necklace,” said the King. “For we badly need rain in this country.”

  But Laura was sad because she could not make it rain till she had her tenth raindrop.

  Just then the North Wind came flying into the King’s garden.

  “There you are, goddaughter!” he said. “I have been looking all over the world for you, to give you your birthday present. Where is your necklace?”

  “The Princess has it,” said poor Laura.

  Then the North Wind was angry. “You should not have taken it off!” he said. And he dropped the raindrop onto the dry grass, where it was lost. Then he flew away. Laura started to cry.

  “Don’t cry,” said the kind little Princess. “You shall have the necklace back, for I can see it is yours.” And she put the chain over Laura’s head. As soon as she did so, one of Laura’s tears ran down and hung on the necklace beside the nine raindrops, making ten. Laura started to smile; she dried her eyes and blew her nose. And, guess what! As soon as she blew her nose the rain began falling! It rained and it rained, the trees all spread out their leaves, and the flowers stretched their petals, they were so happy to have a drink.

  At last Laura clapped her hands to stop the rain.

  The King of Arabia was very pleased. “That is the finest necklace I have ever seen,” he said. “Will you come and stay with us every year, so that we have enough rain?” And Laura said she would do this.

  Then they sent her home in the Princess’s boat, made out of a pink shell. And the birds flew overhead, and the fishes swam in front.

  “I am happy to have my necklace back,” said Laura. “But I am happier to have so many friends.”

  What happened to Meg? The mice told the North Wind that she had taken Laura’s necklace. And he came and blew the roof off her house and let in the rain, so she was SOAKING WET!


  The cat sat on the mat. Lots of cats do that, everybody knows. And nothing strange comes of it. But once a cat sat on a mat and something strange did come of it.

  This is how it all began.

  There was once a little girl called Emma Pippin. She had red rosy cheeks and brown hair and she lived with her Aunt Lou. They were very poor, too poor to buy a house, so they lived in an old bus. The engine would not go, but it was a nice old bus and they loved it. The outside of the bus was painted blue, the inside was painted white, and the windows had orange curtains. There was a stove that kept them warm and whose smoke went out of a chimney in the roof.

  It stood by a high white wall. Inside this wall were many lovely green apple trees, on which were growing many lovely red apples. The apple trees were owned by a proud, grand man called Sir Laxton Superb.

  Every day Aunt Lou went through a door into the orchard to work for Sir Laxton Superb. Aunt Lou picked the apples, which were sent away to shops. There were so many trees that when Aunt Lou had finished picking the last tree, the first one had apples growing on it again!

  But Aunt Lou could not take any lovely red apples for herself. Not a single one! Sir Laxton Superb was a very mean man. He only let her take the apples that were going bad. And he only paid her a penny a day.

  As for Emma, she might not even go into the orchard. She longed to go in, for Aunt Lou had told her about the green trees and the red apples, but Sir Laxton Superb said children would eat his apples, or spoil them. So Emma had to stay outside, looking at the high white wall.

  She had no toys to play with. She and Aunt Lou were too poor. So she worked hard all day keeping the bus nice and clean. And she cooked dinner, ready for when Aunt Lou came home.

  What did she cook? Bad apples! She made bad-apple sauce, bad-apple cake, bad-apple pie, even bad toffee apples.

  Emma was growing very fast. Every day she grew taller. She grew so fast that she was growing too big for her dress. And Aunt Lou was too poor to buy her a new dress. Emma’s dress was so small that she could hardly move!

  “If we take your dress off to wash it,” Aunt Lou said, “we may not be able to get it back on again. I shall wash you and your dress both together.”

  So she put Emma in the bath, and she washed Emma and the dress, and hung them both on the clothesline to dry.

  Then Aunt Lou went off for the day to pick apples. “You may get down when you and your dress are dry,” she said.

bsp; As Emma was swinging in the wind a poor old fairy came along. She walked slowly with a stick, because she was so old.

  When she saw Emma swinging on the clothesline she started to laugh. She laughed and she laughed! She laughed so much she nearly fell over!

  “Oh!” she said when she could stop laughing. “I have never seen anyone on a clothesline before. You can’t think how funny you look!”

  Emma said, “My dress is too small, so Aunt Lou washes it on me, in case I can’t put it on again when I have taken it off. I’m almost dry now, so I can come down if you will help me.”

  The fairy helped Emma down.

  “Would you like to come into our bus,” Emma said, “and have some bad-apple cake?”

  “Thank you,” said the fairy. “I should like to very much. I have never been in a bus.”

  The fairy thought the bus was lovely. And she had three helpings of bad-apple cake. She said it was very good!

  She told Emma, “You have cheered me up, so I shall try to help you. I am too old and poor to give you a great present, but I will give you three of my dresses. They are too small for me now, but they will be just right for you.”

  So the fairy gave Emma three dresses, one red, one blue, and one gray.

  “And as well as the dresses,” she said, “I will give you a kitten to play with.”

  The kitten was called Sam, and he was black, with green eyes. Emma loved him at once because he was so small and soft and bouncy.

  Then the fairy said good-bye and walked slowly away with her stick.

  Aunt Lou was very pleased when she came home and saw the dresses. She cut up the red one and the blue one and made new dresses for Emma. They looked lovely. Aunt Lou left the gray dress because it was not a pretty color.

  Emma had the red dress for weekdays and the blue dress for Sundays.

  As for Sam—he slept on Emma’s bed every night!