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You Could Not Find Papa In The Garden? Ah Ba! - But He Has Grown Worryingly Small These Days
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“When the gay world is no longer gathered together in London…the great men have gone out of town, work is left to feebler hands…In the dead of autumn, when the second and third rate hands are on, we sink from nonsense written with a purpose to nonsense written because the writer must write either nonsense or nothing.”
Hullo, Grosgrain! What, still no sign of Papa, and already half gone on midmorning? – But as Hortensia said, surely you will find him in the garden! Papa is passionately fond of a garden, Grosgrain, as you very well know, and it is all we can do to keep him from his pinks and foxgloves for long enough to make an appearance at table, ha ha! To be sure he is there. Perhaps he heard you coming up the path. I am sure you will take no offense, Grosgrain, if I mention that you do not possess a precisely quiet tread – rather your footfalls are heavily-laden, as it says in the Gospel of Matthew – and thought it would be a good joke on you to creep beneath the hollyhocks and hide there. You must go back, Grosgrain, and look for him more carefully, and even firmly say his name, so he knows it is no trifling matter.
[Aside] But he has grown small – so very small, so confoundingly small, as of late! – I never heard the like of it, for a father to decrease so markedly in size, in so rapid a fashion — what if he grows so small as to vanish from sight altogether? One hears of fathers growing so huge they eventually vanish from sight, and I suppose at both extremes it is possible to disappear, and yet what a terrible solitude such a smallness would mean for Father! — But I must not troubles the others with my worries. It may as yet prove nothing.
Ha-ha! It is nothing, Clarella — only I was remembering what fun we had yesterday at tea-time eating crushberry jam! Was it not diverting?
[Aside] He is such a very wee father now. How will we get on when he is infinitesimal?
Darling boy, there is no need to shout! I have it on good authority that Papa is in the garden at present, as he so often is at this time of day, looking after the begonias. This is a most delicate time of year for begonias, you know. They depend on all of Papa’s careful attention. Will you run and tell Nurse that we’ll have tea in the library today? — Only I don’t care to eat out-of-doors just now.
[Aside] If only we had paid closer attention to Papa’s height! But I never dreamed it would go on this long. He seemed to me such a regular size. Just the right height a father should be! When did that begin to change? — I can’t honestly remember. But oh, Papa is so frighteningly small now.
All is very well, Merrituck! All is very, very well. Now go to sleep!
[Aside] Papa has confided in me that he begins to be afraid of the cat! Dear Phronsie — but she looks so differently at him now, I begin to be quite frightened myself…
Nonsense, Charles! Papa is the same size he has ever been, and is even now merrily spading up some of last year’s radishes in the garden. He wishes to make more room this year for the azaleas! You know how fond Papa has always been of azaleas, and that he stands at an unremarkable, ordinary man’s height.
[Aside] I daren’t tell them that Papa now drinks his morning coffee from an acorn!
I don’t think Papa would much care to hear you speak to your little brother that way, Morris. If you two haven’t made up by the time he returns from the garden, I expect he shall be of a very regular height, and also displeased.
[Aside] But he sleeps in a little match-box I have stuffed with cotton! — My tiny, dear Papa! I have to cup my hand round my ear to hear his little squeaks and squibs when he tries to speak to me now!
Yes, Papa’s in the garden at present! You just missed him! He sends his love and says to be a good girl and he’ll see you at supper-time, right as rain, in just his usual seat at the head of the table, carving the roast beef!
[Aside] Oh, how will Papa carve anything with such delicate and miniature hands? He rides behind the train on a little thimble!!! …But they must never know. I don’t know how I shall manage to contrive this — but contrive it I shall. Wherever you are, my ladybug Papa, I swear to you the other children will never know about your diminution if I can help it. And help it I shall! Though he be small, he’s still our Pa — !
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]