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Title: Gypsy and Ginger
Author: Farjeon, Eleanor
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           GYPSY AND GINGER

[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER AND THEIR FRIENDS IN THE WEATHERHOUSE]



                               GYPSY AND
                                GINGER

                                  BY

                            ELEANOR FARJEON

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                               NEW YORK
                        E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
                           681 FIFTH AVENUE

                            Copyright, 1920
                       By E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

                         _All Rights Reserved_

               _Printed in the United States of America_



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

GYPSY AND GINGER GET MARRIED                                           1

GYPSY AND GINGER HAVE A HONEYMOON                                      7

GYPSY AND GINGER DISCUSS WAYS AND MEANS                               13

GYPSY AND GINGER KEEP HOUSE                                           21

GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS:
  1--The Pavement Artist                                              28
  2--The Taxi-Man                                                     36
  3, 4, and 5--Jeremy, Rags, and Tonio                                45
  6--The Balloon Woman                                                53
  7--The Night Watchman                                               62
  8--The Groundsel Man                                                70

GYPSY AND GINGER TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY                                79

GYPSY AND GINGER GET TO WORK                                          88

GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS:
  9--The Professor of Neglected Accomplishments                       96

GYPSY AND GINGER REFORM LONDON                                       105

GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS:
  10--The Policeman                                                  113
  11--The Piccadilly Flower-Girls                                    121
  12--The Penny Piper                                                130

GYPSY AND GINGER RETIRE FROM BUSINESS                                139

GYPSY AND GINGER GIVE A PARTY                                        147

GYPSY AND GINGER MOVE ON                                             154

GYPSY AND GINGER MOVE IN                                             161



GYPSY AND GINGER



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER GET MARRIED]


When Gypsy and Ginger got married--

Oh, but before that I ought to say that those were not their names.
Hers was the name of the most beautiful of women, and his the name of
the most victorious of men. But they were not a bit like that really.
Parents make these mistakes, and the false prophecies they invent for
their infants at the font continue to be their delusions through life.
But nobody else’s. As they grow up the children find their level, and
are called according to their deserts. And so Gypsy was called Gypsy
because his hair wasn’t really quite as black as a gypsy’s; and Ginger
was called Ginger because her hair was the sort of hair that those who
adore it love to insult. It was anything but ginger; or rather, it
was everything besides. Such as mace, and cinnamon, and nutmeg, and
cayenne, and ochre, and burnt sienna, and vandyke brown and a touch of
chrome no. 3; and one hair, named Vivien, was pure vermilion. It was
a ridiculous mixture really, and resembled the palette of an artist
trying to paint beechwoods in Autumn. No, it didn’t; it resembled the
beechwoods. In thinking of Ginger’s hair you must begin again, and wash
out all the above colours, which are not really colours, but paints.
Ginger’s hair, like all the colours of earth and sky, was made of
fire and light. That is why colours can never be painted. I’m sorry
to have gone on so long about Ginger’s hair, but I couldn’t help it;
yet I should have been able to, for the hair itself was short. When
she combed it over her head and face it hung as low as her upper lip,
and so on all the way round, very smooth on the top, very thick at the
bottom, and doing a lovely serpentine in and out just below the level
of her eyebrows. When it got to her lip it did another one in, and
never came out again.

When Gypsy and Ginger got married--

By the way, it was by the merest fluke that they did get married.
A month before that Ginger chanced to be in Sussex (she never was
anywhere by design), and she saw an empty cottage that took her fancy;
it had a thatched roof with martins under the thatch, and two brick
floors downstairs, and two whitewashed ceilings upstairs. Between the
two ceilings was a green door three feet high, so you had to play at
elephants to get from one ceiling to the other. When you were there
you could stand upright; but if you wanted to look out of the window
to talk to the martins you had to go down on your knees again. The
cottage had got two chains of hills all to itself, one on each side,
and a river at the bottom of the garden, running very full and level
between green grass and gold kingcups.

Therefore Ginger knew that the cottage had got to be hers. She went to
the Pub to ask about it, and the Pub gave her shandygaff and cheese and
said it belonged to the Blacksmith.

“Why doesn’t the Blacksmith live in it?” asked Ginger.

“He’s keeping it for his son, till he gets married,” said the Pub.

“Is he going to get married?” asked Ginger.

“Not as we knows on,” said the Pub.

Ginger finished her shandygaff so hastily that she choked, and ran as
fast as she could to the Blacksmith’s, with her mouth full of cheese.
Between cheese and breathlessness she was unable to speak when she
got there, so she merely leaned against the door waving her hands at
the Blacksmith and his Son. They looked round at her. The Blacksmith
said, “What d’ye want, missy?” and the Son didn’t say anything. Ginger
gulped down the last of her cheese and said, “I want to marry your
son.” The Blacksmith said, “He’s tokened to Lizzie Hooker,” and the Son
didn’t say anything. Ginger stamped her foot and said, “When?” “Come
dinner-time,” said the Blacksmith. The Son said nothing. “There!” said
Ginger, “I _knew_ I’d be too late.” And she turned and ran down the
hill and took the next train to Sligo. The men went back to their work,
and come supper-time the Blacksmith’s Son broke it off with Lizzie
Hooker. But by then Ginger was nearly in Wales, which shows how fatal a
thing is procrastination.

Gypsy knew this. He never procrastinated. But at that time he and
Ginger were strangers, or this narrow squeak would never have happened.
Ginger stayed a week in Sligo, went to Abbeyville for another, came
back in a hurry because the Ballet was dancing _Carnaval_ on Saturday
afternoon, and then ran up to Ilkley for three days. She was next said
to have been seen simultaneously in Northamptonshire and Petersfield,
but the certain fact is that exactly a month after not marrying the
Blacksmith’s Son in Sussex, she was in a boat on the Cam with Gypsy. He
had come across her in the Backs five minutes previously, and asked her
to go for a row. The next day Gypsy and Ginger got married.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER HAVE A HONEYMOON]


Gypsy and Ginger spent their honeymoon on Hampstead Heath. It lasted
from Saturday to Monday, and by great luck the Monday was Whit Monday.
So they did the end of the honeymoon in Swings and Roundabouts, and
slid several times down a little Spiral Tower, and had gingerbeer
and oranges and hokey-pokey, and bought each other a great many
beautifully-coloured wedding-presents, such as feathers and streamers
and little balls of pink and blue and yellow and green and gold
and silver, swinging from elastics, and tin trumpets, and striped
cornucopias. And Gypsy came away with sixteen cocoanuts. He felt in
great form, because, he said, the cocoanuts that hadn’t been to the
barber’s looked exactly like Ginger’s head, and it was too good a
chance to be missed. He did have nineteen cocoanuts, but he dropped one
in the last Roundabout, very late at night when the flares were lit. It
was a Motorcar Roundabout with an automatic Jazz Band in the middle of
it that got jazzier and jazzier as the motors got faster and faster.
But when Gypsy dropped his cocoanut he got even jazzier than the band,
and stood up on the back of his seat and yelled for the thing to stop,
and for several rounds had a fierce argument with an attendant, whom
he accused, every time he whirled past, of conspiring to rob him of
his nut. But all the attendant saw was an occasional lightning-streak
of a young man with wild hair and glittering eyes and gesticulating
hands, superbly balanced on one foot; and all the attendant heard was,
“Nut! nut! nut!” And all the attendant said was, “’E’s fair gawn orf
it.” As the motor-jazz simmered down so did Gypsy, and by the time
they came to a standstill he realised that he had done the attendant an
injustice, so he gave the man his eighteenth cocoanut as a keepsake.

And Ginger won a penknife. She threw a little ring right over it and
won it. It was an awful surprise to her, because she never knew she had
it in her, but it was an awfuller surprise to the Man with the Rings,
because nobody ever _did_ win a penknife. He simply hated losing it.
So he offered Ginger anuvver frow, free of charge, if she would give
him back the penknife. She was delighted and said, “How generous! oh,
but are you _sure_?” she was so afraid of doing him. The Man with the
Rings was quite sure. So they put back the penknife, and Ginger threw
her free throw and won it again. Then the Man with the Rings said,
“Blarst!” and burst into tears.

Ginger said, “Oh, dear, what _is_ the matter?”

“Well may you arst!” sobbed the Man with the Rings, “an’ me wiv a wife
an’ five little ’uns at ’ome.”

At least, Ginger thought he said this; in Gypsy’s opinion, when they
discussed it later, he said, “Five wives and a little ’un.” Either way
they felt very sorry for him. Ginger dried his eyes with a beautiful
orange-coloured handkerchief which was Gypsy’s chief wedding-present
to her, and Gypsy gave him his seventeenth cocoanut. But the Man With
the Rings only looked miserably at the penknife; and at last he offered
Ginger free free frows if she’d give it back. But Ginger clutched it.
She wanted so much to keep the penknife as a proof, and she knew that
luck doesn’t go on forever. The Man with the Rings looked frightfully
unhappy, so Gypsy, who could not bear a cloud on his first honeymoon,
gave him half-a-crown for the penknife; and everybody was cheerful.

“It’s for you,” said Ginger when they came away. “It’s a
wedding-present. I won it for you with the sweat of my own brow.”

“We shan’t have to sweat again for a long time now,” said Gypsy.
“Sixteen cocoanuts will be lots to live on for a bit, especially now
we’ve got a penknife to eat them with. It’s ripping, darling.”

Gypsy was wrong, however. The penknife wouldn’t rip margarine, much
less sixteen cocoanuts. So when they got back to a little room they’d
found standing quite empty and longing for them in Well Road, they had
supper by the aid of the poker. Then, because they’d no pennies left
for the gas-slot, and no lamp, and no candles, Ginger put a match to
some shavings in the fireplace so that they could see whether they were
taking bites of cocoanut or of cocoanut matting; and as the poker was
otherwise engaged, she poked the fire with the penknife, which flared
up like a squib and disappeared for ever. And Gypsy and Ginger, who
both adored fireworks, said, “Oo--oo--oo!” and clapped their hands, and
rolled themselves up on the floor and went to sleep.

Because, as I said before, the room was quite empty.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER DISCUSS WAYS AND MEANS]


The day after the honeymoon, Gypsy and Ginger decided that it was time
to settle down. The five days since they had first met had been as
unsettled as unsettling, but now that they were used to married life
and to one another--“we must make up our minds,” said Gypsy, “to being
humdrum for the rest of our days. There’s no escape. We must Keep
House.” “Why?” said Ginger. “Before you’re married,” said Gypsy, “House
keeps You. Afterwards You keep House. It’s a sort of moral obligation
for past favours received.” “Bother,” said Ginger, “is it?” “’Fraid
so,” said Gypsy; “and before we keep house we must discuss Ways and
Means.” “Isn’t there a Ministry for that?” asked Ginger. “We might
go to the Minister and discuss it with him.” “There isn’t one yet,”
said Gypsy, “there won’t be one till the Householders’ Strike nearly
comes off.” “Then let’s nearly strike,” said Ginger. “But we aren’t
nearly Householders yet,” objected Gypsy; “which brings us back to the
discussion of Ways and Means.”

They discussed Ways and Means. “I’ve often thought,” said Ginger,
pulling reflectively at her single scarlet hair, “that I might be a
Designer.”

“What of? Of what? Let Vivien alone, darling, she might come out,
and it would be a lot of trouble putting her back in the same hole.
Transplanting hairs isn’t as simple as it sounds. And there’s no money
in it either, or we might go in for that. Of what?”

“What of what?” asked Ginger.

“Do you mean ‘what of--what’ or ‘what--of what?’” asked Gypsy.

“I don’t remember,” said Ginger.

“Well, it doesn’t matter. Let’s go back to our first subject. What
would you design?”

“The dresses you see in Dry-Cleaners’ shop-windows,” said Ginger. “I
often wonder who designs them, or how they think of them, or when they
were in fashion. There’s the one in cherry-coloured plush, and the one
with a bodice draped canary satin with a bright blue moiré sash and
a deep lace flounce round the skirt; and there are the white ingenue
ones, all specially designed for ingenues over thirty-five. But it must
be an awfully difficult profession--I expect you have to be born with a
natural gift for the wrong colours.”

“Then you’d better chuck it and think of something else,” said Gypsy,
looking at her hair which had been born with a natural gift for the
right colours. “But while you’ve been talking I’ve decided on _my_
profession.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Invert gas-mantles.”

“Why?”

“Well, _some_body has to. All the best gas-mantles are inverted
nowadays. And it sounds a simple, even an artless job; I’m sure it lies
within my scope.”

“What is a scope?” asked Ginger.

“Don’t be silly,” said Gypsy. “You must know what a scope is. You’ve
got one of your own.”

“Sure?” said Ginger.

“Everybody has.”

“What for?”

“For things to lie within, of course.”

“Like a sea-chest? What sort of things--the things you so often see in
the offing?”

“Oh, not nearly as many or as varied as those,” said Gypsy. “They’re
simply legion. The things within one’s scope are frequently quite
limited. But if you take another peep into yours, you might find
something else.”

Ginger took another peep, and emerged triumphant.

“Well?” said Gypsy.

“I’ve found what I’m going to do. I’m going to trim coal.”

“How?”

“I shall have to find out. But coal _is_ trimmed--there’s been a lot
about Coal-Trimmers in the papers lately, and I should _love_ it.
There’s such a lot of effects to be done with black--you ask Mr. Heal.
Think of little white frills, and scarlet ribbons, and bright green
pom-poms--”

“I never saw _my_ Mother’s coal come into the drawing-room looking
like an African Beauty Chorus,” said Gypsy, getting jealous. “I don’t
believe that’s how you trim coal at all. I believe what coal-trimmers
do is to put all those little goldy bits in the lumps, and that must
be _frightfully_ hard.”

“The first time I saw the goldy bits,” said Ginger, “I was nine years
old. And I thought all we’d got to do was to get them out with a
nutpick, and our fortune would be made. And I got the Army and Navy
Stores Catalogue and turned up the Oriental Section, and decided I’d
have a Moorish lamp and a Benares tray, and a sandalwood box, and an
octagonal coffee-stool inlaid mother-of-pearl, and some joss-sticks,
and wear a pink veil with gold spangles, and lie on three striped
cushions all day long, and eat Turkish Delight, and be like the Arabian
Nights.”

“Then you’d got a jolly thin idea of the Arabian Nights,” said Gypsy.
“What a lot you talk.”

“I choose nice things to talk about anyhow,” said Ginger, “not dull
ones like upside-down gas-mantles.”

“I’m not going to turn gas-mantles upside-down any more,” said Gypsy.
“It’s cruel, because they’re subject to apoplexy. I’ve been getting a
better idea lately. I’m going to paint Still Life.”

“What sort of still life?”

“Quite a new line. I shall paint Wax-Fruit-Pieces, and
Artificial-Flower-Pieces. It’s never been done.”

“Yes it has been,” said Ginger. “The Pavement Artists all do it. The
profession’s absolutely overcrowded, and it’s the rottenest Way and
Mean we’ve discussed yet. I’m tired of Ways and Means, because while I
go one way you mean another, and if we can’t find some sort of tandem
profession we might as well stop being married at once. Let’s go for a
walk to Golder’s Green and give cocoanuts to the emus. I wonder what
the weather’s like.”

“Go and look for yourself,” said Gypsy.

“I looked first thing this morning,” said Ginger. “Don’t be sulky.
It’s your turn.”

Gypsy went outside and came in again, and said rather excitedly,
“Squally and showery. What was it this morning when _you_ looked?”

“Set fair,” said Ginger.

“Eureka!” said Gypsy.

“What does that mean?”

“Come and play marbles with the cocoanuts,” said Gypsy, “and I’ll tell
you.”



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER KEEP HOUSE]


When Gypsy said “Eureka!” he meant that he had found a Way and a Mean
in which he and Ginger could work tandem and keep house together. It
was really the ideal profession for newly-married couples, for it
couldn’t be worked single, or by two men, or two women; it literally
involved a house to be kept turn and turn about; and the balance
between the Way and the Mean was so exquisitely adjusted, that while
Gypsy went one Way, Ginger Meant something else entirely, and _vice
versa_. This was the idea, which before long will probably be adopted
by young brides and bridegrooms all over England.

“We will begin,” said Gypsy, “by building a little house, the size
of Wendy and Peter’s, in a crowded thoroughfare. The house will have
only one room, but two doors, both looking the same way. One door is
yours and one is mine. When the weather is fine you will come out of
your door while I stay inside and cook the sausages, and when it’s bad
I will come out of my door while you go in and make the tea. And all
the people will give us pennies for telling them what the weather is.
That’s all.”

“Oh Gypsy!” exclaimed Ginger. She had always loved him, and often
admired him; but now she almost respected him.

“We’d work on the swing system, you see,” said Gypsy. “I think there’d
be a pivot in the middle of the floor and a little plank on it, with
me on one end and you on the other.”

“We shouldn’t often meet,” said Ginger pensively.

“But think how jolly it would be to wave to each other,” said Gypsy.

“I’d wave my orange handkerchief,” said Ginger.

“I’d wave a blue one,” said Gypsy. “And I’d have a little blue top hat
and coat, and bottle-green waistcoat and trousers, all varnished.”

“I’d have a round red bodice, very tight,” said Ginger, “and a little
round yellow sailor hat, and I’d be varnished too. I’m afraid your
varnish will wear off in the rain.”

“Well, you’ll fade a bit in the sun yourself,” said Gypsy.

“I’m sorry you’re to have all the bad weather,” said Ginger.

“It’s the man’s part, darling. And I shall have a purple umbrella
stuck tight to my side.”

“I shall have a pink parasol,” said Ginger, “that never opens. I shall
be very busy in June and July, but then I love an open-air life in
summer. You’ll spend all August cooking sausages.”

“And you’ll be making tea most of January and February,” said Gypsy.
“Home won’t see much of me at that time of year. But I shall hear you
singing about the little house, and the kettle doing second, and I
shall know it’s worth it.”

“What will happen in April?”

“Life will be a bit jerky in April,” said Gypsy. “There’ll be any
amount of popping in and out, and I shall have to turn the sausages
between the showers.”

“And what about when the weather’s not quite one thing and not quite
another, and the barometer keeps on changing its mind about going up
and down?”

“Then we’ll have to do a sort of Hesitation Waltz at our respective
doors, and the tea and sausages must be suspended till May. Come on,
darling, let’s go and do it.”

It was quickly done. Gypsy, who was handy with his hands, ran up
a house with weather-boarding, and Ginger painted it green with a
red chimney, and cottonwool smoke, because the chimney didn’t lead
anywhere, and the cooking was all done on a brazier. They chose
Trafalgar Square for their site because it was central and populous,
and collared a lot of ’bus-routes. And they could see the fountains
playing, and hear St. Martin ringing Oranges and Lemons, and throw
crumbs to the sparrows and the lions. They had customers from the very
beginning. Their most regular ones were the men from the Meteorological
Office and the weather-reporters from the newspapers. The reporters
came twice a day, at noon, to find out what the weather had been in
the morning, and at evening to find out what it had been in the
afternoon. But the theatre crowds kept them busiest. After the shows on
soaking nights the people would flock with their dripping umbrellas and
splashing galoshes to the little house to ask the weather, and Gypsy
would stand outside the door and tell them it was raining and they’d he
wise to go home by the Tube. And the grateful throng paid their pennies
and rushed for the Bakerloo. But on fine nights Ginger would be there,
and she would tell them that the moon was shining and the stars were
out, and that nothing is lovelier than the top of a ’bus on a summer
night. She told it so nicely that quite often she got two-pence instead
of a penny. But she posted it all in the red pillar-box where they
kept their money. When it got to a pound it would burst open, but it
takes a long time to get to a pound because of the price of Souchong
and Best Pork. And quite often a taximan or so would look in at twelve
o’clock and ask for a sossidge and a cup of anything ’ot, just as a
matter of course, and they always got it, and Gypsy and Ginger were
really hurt when they offered to pay for this hospitality. So after
that a great many taxi-men turned up regularly, and chestnut-men, and
night-watchmen, and tramps, and in this way Gypsy and Ginger made many
midnight friends, who are different from all the other sorts of friends
there are. For at midnight we are quite ourselves.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

1: THE PAVEMENT ARTIST]


Most of the people who would gather in Gypsy and Ginger’s Weatherhouse
at midnight had lovely professions--so lovely that they often wondered
they had not thought of them themselves when they were discussing
Ways and Means. There were, for instance, a Rag-and-Bone Man, and a
Punch-and-Judy Man, and a Balloon Woman, and a Lavender Girl. Gypsy
would gladly have been either of the two first, and Ginger both of
the two last. There were other people too, singers of ballads, and
merchants of muffins and groundsel. But the only one whose profession
they had considered even for a moment was the Pavement Artist. He was a
very good artist and had once thought of being an R.A., but in the end
had decided to be a P.A. instead.

“Burlington House, pah!” he would say, half-shutting one eye as he held
up in the middle distance a glistening sausage, crackling from the pan.
“It is the Mausoleum of Art, my dear.”

“Mausoleum?” inquired Ginger, biting off her thread, because she was
neatening a loose end of braid on the Pavement Artist’s shabby brown
cotton velveteen jacket. She often did such jobs for her friends at
midnight.

“I think it’s the name of a music-hall,” whispered Gypsy.

“Of a dancing-hall,” corrected the Pavement Artist, “where they do
the Dance of Death to the skeleton rattle of easels and mahlsticks.
Vampires sit at the door waiting to suck the red blood from the veins
of any living artist who ventures in. Once in he seldom, if ever, gets
out again. I thought it wasn’t worth it, and I took to the art of the
populace on the pavements.”

“Do the populace like art?” asked Gypsy.

“They like mine,” said the P.A. “I paint their dreams for them.”

“What are their dreams?” asked Ginger.

“Salmon and Switzerland,” said the P.A. His eyes grew hazy. “They are
also mine. Have you ever eaten salmon?” He attacked Gypsy abruptly.

“Twice,” said Gypsy, suppressing a hundredth part of the truth out of
kindness of heart.

“Ah. So have I--tinned. And have you ever seen Switzerland?”

Ginger nodded. “She’s seen everywhere,” explained Gypsy apologetically.

“So have I--in Oxford Street. It was years and years ago. You sat in a
pretend railway carriage for twopence, and the floor rocked, and a man
turned a handle to make the sound of wheels, and another one yodelled
while a panorama of mountains and waterfalls whirled past the carriage
window.” The Pavement Artist’s chin sank on his breast. “But I know,”
he whispered, “that it’s not like that really, neither the salmon nor
the mountains. They are not even like my pictures of them.”

“What are they like?” asked Ginger, filling his teacup.

“They are like my dreams of them,” said the P.A., “they are like what I
feel when I do the pictures. And I only do the best parts. I do middle
cuts of Scotch. I know the loch my salmon was caught in, I know the
thrill of the angler as he hooks, plays, and lands it, yes, and the
thrill of the fish. I have seen it come down in spate----”

“What’s spate?” said Ginger. There were lots of words she didn’t know.

“Sh!” said Gypsy putting his finger on her mouth, for the P.A. was
wandering in a world apart.

“Sometimes,” he murmured, “I do it raw, sometimes cooked. When it is
raw the blue and silver scales of the skin are more exquisite; but when
it is cooked there are thin slices of cucumber with seeds visible in
their cool transparent centres. Have you ever felt the beauty of design
in the heart of a cucumber?--Once I surrounded the king of fish with
a thick layer of mayonnaise.” His nostrils inflated slightly. “And
Switzerland!”

“Yes, Switzerland?” repeated Ginger softly. His way of saying it
diffused glamour over a country which on the whole had bored her.

“Switzerland! the awful mountains piercing the sapphire with their
silver pinnacles--earth’s knives thrust into heaven’s bosom! The cows
with their tinkling bells leaping from crag to crag! The crimson
sunsets, the purple nights! The still lagoons with their gondolas, the
Northern lights, the white palaces----”

“But,” said Ginger.

“Hush!” said Gypsy, taking her on his knee.

“Music over the water ... the siesta at noon ... the click of
castanets, the serenata ... the rugged firs be-diamonded with frost,
the orange groves in flower ... the Aurora Borealis....” The P.A.’s
voice trailed off and his eyes closed.

That night when their friends had gone, Ginger got down the little red
pillar-box and looked defiantly at Gypsy. But Gypsy only said, “If you
can’t shake it out we’ll prise it open with the fork.”

However, with a good deal of shaking they got out
three-and-elevenpence, and that was practically all it contained.

“I’m afraid it won’t quite run to Switzerland,” said Gypsy.

“No,” said Ginger, “but it will to Salmon--Scotch. And I don’t _want_
it to run to Switzerland. It would be simply brutal to send him to
Switzerland.”

“Yes, we mustn’t be iconoclasts,” said Gypsy.

“Iconoclasts?” inquired Ginger.

“The antitheses of Cook and Lunn, darling. But salmon--”

“Antitheses?” interpolated Ginger.

“There really isn’t time, darling. Salmon--”

“Then talk in words of one syllable,” said Ginger. “Now what about
salmon?”

“Salmon,” said Gypsy, “is safe. It’s only the Canadians who put it in
tins that are iconoclasts about salmon. I don’t see how any pavement
picture of the very middlest cut could be better than the real thing,
do you?”

Ginger agreed that salmon was safe.

But the P.A. didn’t.

When the following night he asked for a sausage, and Ginger shyly
offered him a pink slice of Scotch with a coronet of cucumber all the
way round, his eyes dilated. But he shook his head.

“My dear,” he said, “do you know what are the two worst things in life?”

“Not salmon and cucumber, surely?” pleaded Ginger.

“No,” said he. “But not having what you want, and having it.” He put
the plate from him. “‘Rather endure those evils’--I can’t argue about
it,” he said abruptly, “I only know that if your salmon were one whit
more or less delicious than mine, I should never chalk salmon on
pavement again. And what would then be left me to do for a living?”

“S’rimps,” said the Rag-and-Bone Man.

“Potboiling!” said the P. A. “Can one dream of shrimps? A sausage,
please.”

Artists are so hopelessly unpractical.



[Illustration: 2. The Taxi-Man

GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS]


This episode in the lives of Gypsy and Ginger ought really to be called
_Tales of an Old Adventure_. For that, if they could believe him, was
what the Taxi-Man was.

Though I have given precedence to the Pavement Artist, the Taxi-Man was
really the first friend the Weatherhouse brought them. It was he who
began it all by dropping in at twelve and demanding a sossidge, and it
was he who spread their fame and hospitality over all the kerbs and
street-corners in the city.

After his second visit he said, “Now I’ve discovered you young people,
I’ll make you known. Not that I expect the public to be grateful for
it. It never is to us discoverers.”

“Have you always been a discoverer?” asked Ginger.

“Ever since I left Epsom as a boy, missy.”

“How long ago was that?” she asked.

The Taxi-Man pursed up his lips, stroked his beard, and shook his head.
He was an ancient and magnificent gentleman, with a beard like old
Sindbad’s, eyes as blue as any follower’s of the sea, and a cherry nose.

“I wouldn’t like to tell you, missy. You wouldn’t believe me.”

“She can believe anything out of reason,” said Gypsy proudly.

“That’s exactly what my age is,” said the Taxi-Man, “and we’ll leave it
at that. But I don’t mind admitting that I was the First Hansom-Cabman
in England, and shall be the Last Taxi-Driver.”

“And what have you discovered besides us?” asked Gypsy.

“London, mister,” said the Taxi-Man.

“Are you really the discoverer of London?” cried Ginger.

“That’s me, missy. A fiery boy I was, all for adventure, and Epsom
was too slow for me except on Derby Day. So one fine morning I rode
away on the Derby Winner, a beautiful skewbald called Snow-Flame. Out
of a circus he’d come, and down the course he went doing the Polka as
sweet as though he smelt sawdust. The rest were nowhere. When he got to
the Winning Post he jumped clean over it and then laid down and died.
Beautiful it was. Even the bookies hadn’t a dry eye between them. But
stables was no place for Snow-Flame, nor subbubs for me. We met in
a lane next day, me trundling an orange-box on wheels, for I’d been
sent wooding, and him frisking his tail and nibbling bread-and-cheese
off the hawthorns. He was feeling bucked with himself, d’ye see,
because he’d unlatched his stable door with his own nose and jumped a
seven-foot wall afterwards. So when we met he first stood on his head,
and next came right end up and stood me on mine. After that he put me
into the orange-box and backed between the shafts and curled his head
under his off foreleg and winked at me. So I hitched him with a rope
and off he went; the next thing I knew to remember, we’d discovered
London.”

“What was it like then?” asked Ginger.

The Taxi-Man looked at her reflectively. “It were a queer place,” he
said. “Golden pavements, as I dessay you’ve heard, till the County
Council had them took up at the rate-payers’ expense; and any amount of
green men and red lions running about on ’em--oh, any amount. There was
a white bear in Hampstead too, in them days.”

“There still is,” said Gypsy.

“Is there now?” said the Taxi-Man; while Ginger exclaimed, “What do
_you_ know about it, Gypsy. You might have told me!”

The two men looked steadily at each other, and then they shook their
heads.

“Let that be, missy,” said the Taxi-Man; “it’s a man’s job. To get on.
There were dragons too, and a giant or so. One by one I cleared ’em
out.”

“Oh, but why?” protested Ginger.

“To make London safe to live in, missy.”

“But it _was_ safe,” said Ginger, “for the giants and dragons.”

“Ah, it wouldn’t do for us discoverers to take account of the natives,”
said the Taxi-Man. “Once they’re discovered, the natives must go. It’s
one of the rules, missy. Them giants and dragons was a danger.”

“To whom?” asked Ginger.

“To the Picadilly Flower-Girls,” said the Taxi-Man, looking like Saint
George’s great-grandfather.

“Oh well,” said Ginger grudgingly. “But I must say London doesn’t seem
half the place it was.”

“London’s all right,” said the Taxi-Man. “You can’t kill the nature of
a place as easy as all that. No, not even by putting white men in the
place of green ones, and taxis in the place of hansoms.”

“That must have been a great shock to you,” observed Gypsy.

“Yes, in a way it were. And a greater to Snow-Flame. We’d been reared
on romance, d’ye see. We _were_ romance, so to speak. It were all
properly defined in those early days. On the one rank the Four-Wheels,
on the other the Hansoms. They stood for safety, we for danger. The
Growlers for Mrs. Grundy, Us for the Quixotes. Everyone knew what we
were then, but who’s to know now? Whether you’re one old lady going to
her solicitor’s to make her will, or nine young men on Boatrace Night,
you just say ‘Taxi!’ Democracy, that’s what it is, and you can’t stop
it.” He emptied his cup into his saucer, and drank it at a draught.
“Well,” he said, “I must be taking my fare home.”

“Have you got a fare waiting all this time?” asked Ginger. “What a lot
of twopences!”

“This fare don’t pay no tuppences,” said the Taxi-Man. “I takes him a
ride round London for nothing, every fine night after working-hours.
P’raps you’d like to see him?”

Gypsy and Ginger went with him to the Tube corner, and there was the
taxi with the hood thrown back. Doubled up inside, as clever as a
jigsaw, sat a very old red-and-white horse.

“There you are, missy,” said the Taxi-Man, “Snow-Flame! the Most
Marvellous Trick Horse of This or Any Age. Winner of the Derby in----”

“What year?” asked Gypsy.

“Winner of the Derby,” repeated the Taxi-Man. “We’ll leave it at that.”

“Why do you take him for rides in the taxi?” asked Gypsy.

“Why not?” said the Taxi-Man. “Haven’t we always had our nights, him
and me? Didn’t we discover London together, bit by bit, under many a
full moon? Ah, missy, the fairy-tales we could tell you of the Castle
that Jack Built, and of another one built by an Elephant, and then
again of the End of the World, which we run across one night by pure
accident in Chelsea. And though times change, shall we have no more
London Nights? Taxis be blowed! Watch this.”

He undid the cab door, and Snow-Flame undid himself and got out. Then
the Taxi-Man pulled out a concertina and played _The Maiden’s Prayer_,
and Snow-Flame waltzed entrancingly all round Trafalgar Square and died
at Ginger’s feet. Gypsy swears that after this he turned a somersault
and climbed the Nelson Column, but Ginger was weeping as she used to
weep at the end of Lord George Sanger’s Circus, so she missed it.

When she wiped her eyes the Taxi-Man and Snow-Flame had gone home.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

3, 4, 5: JEREMY, RAGS, AND TONIO]


One night after a very hot day, when the moon was at her roundest,
an unusual number of Gypsy and Ginger’s friends turned up at the
Weatherhouse, because everybody who was awake in London had come to
dip his head in the fountains. What made Trafalgar Square still more
crowded was that They had been doing something to it during the day,
and had roped off the bit that wasn’t quite done, and left a little man
in a box inside it--“Like a Magician in his Magic Circle,” said Gypsy.

“I wonder if he’d let me in to see him do tricks,” mused Ginger.

“It mightn’t be safe, darling. Once inside the Circle----”

“It’s not really a circle, it’s a square,” said Ginger, “and you can
always get out of a square because of the cracks in the corners. It’s
only rings there’s no getting out off.”

“I shouldn’t risk it, though,” said Gypsy. “And here comes Jeremy and
Rags for their sausages.”

Jeremy was the Penny Hawker. He came up with his black hair streaked
like dripping seaweed all over his face, and Ginger gave him a towel.
When he’d done with it he passed it on to Rags, whose hair was
nondescript and tufty, and looked, after its dip, like wet fur. Rags
was the Rag-and-Bone Man. He was himself all rags and bones. Ginger
used to give him double portions to make him fatter, and she patched
his rags with lovely bits of her old frocks, so that his knees and
elbows and other places had unexpected moments of bright chintzes,
and butcher-blue linen, and emerald green cloth, and orange silk. But
he never got any fatter, and the holes kept coming in new places. He
walked about all day with a bag and a long stick with a little fork on
the end, seeking for treasure-trove in the London streets. At night he
would open his bag and show Ginger his findings, about which she was
always very excited; it was usually more trove than treasure, but it
pleased Rags greatly when she praised his cleverness.

“Fancy being able to spot a black-headed pin in the London dust,” she
would say. “What an eye you must have, Rags! And what an almost perfect
pin!”

“’T’s nuthin’ much,” he would say modestly. “One day I s’ll find
sumpthin’ reely good.”

He was a shy hoarse little man, but he had a secret ambition which he
had never told anyone until he met Ginger. His ambition was to find
a diamond--a reely big diamond, as big as the Koh-i-Noor. With this
object he had devoted himself from boyhood to the London Streets. “An’
it’s _there_, mum!” he insisted eagerly, “I know it’s there, and one
day I s’ll find it.” His cheeks, which were usually grey, got pink when
he talked of it.

Ginger shared his hope. “What will you do when you’ve found it, Rags?”
she asked.

“I s’ll take you to the Pit of the Lyceum, mum,” said Rags, getting
pinker.

“Oh!” said Ginger, overwhelmed.

Meanwhile he often made her a little present from his treasure-bag,
such as a hairpin, or an empty matchbox. And she would thank him and
say how useful the matchbox would be to keep the hairpin in, seeing how
short her hair was.

Jeremy was on the whole a better-dressed man than Rags. This is to say,
he was more orthodox. He had all the finishing touches which go to make
the Perfect Nut. If he had not always a hat, he had always a hat-guard;
though he sometimes lacked boots, he did not lack boot-buttons; and he
was frequently without a collar but never without a stud. It was said
of him in the Weatherhouse, not that he was exquisitely dressed, but
that he was exquisitely appointed. He was able to be so because of his
profession. His hawker’s tray was nearly as interesting to Ginger as
Rag’s bag. One day it would be one thing, one day another.

“How do you decide?” asked Ginger. “I don’t believe I _could_ make up
my mind, Jeremy, between Jumping Rabbits and Dying Pigs.”

“Lord bless you, Ginger,” said the Penny Hawker, sticking his penny
monocle in his eye (he was the only one who addressed her by her name,
but he did it with the manners of Bond Street) “nobody chooses in
Hawker’s Hall.”

“Hawker’s Hall?” inquired Gypsy. “I’ve heard of Fishmonger’s Hall.”

“No connection,” said Jeremy. “I don’t understand the Fish Trade
myself, though I once had a friend in Whelks. In Hawker’s Hall we
all meet at daybreak and draw lots for the trays. It’s the only way.
There’d be too much jealousy otherwise. And the element of chance lends
a zest to each day. Even if you’ve had the bad fortune to draw matches
from Monday to Friday, you never know but what Saturday may bring you
the little men who take their hats off.”

“Oh, I _love_ them!” cried Ginger clasping her hands.

“You shall have one,” said Jeremy, “the next time I draw them. I
haven’t had them this month, but luck must turn some time or other.
It’s like gambling--the next deal may always bring you four aces.
Here’s Tonio.”

Tonio was Chestnuts in winter and Hokey-Pokey in summer. He was
Hokey-Pokey now. He always brought glamour into Trafalgar Square, no
matter what the night. In winter he sang of the Italian Chestnut
trees, in summer he carolled Neapolitan boat-songs over the splashing
water. On the clear warm night of a full moon, such, as this, Tonio was
a poet and irresistible. He was gallant, too, and generally had a lady
with him. To-night it was the Strawberry Girl, and he was telling her
how singularly her eyes reminded him of the stars overhead. “Wot things
you do think of,” said the Strawberry Girl. A small procession trailed
after them, to ask Ginger what the night was like.

“It’s the hottest night of the season,” said Ginger, free of charge.
“Hokey-Pokey all round, please, Tonio.”

Gypsy promptly fetched the pillar-box. The pound which would burst it
was always being pulled down like this, like the telegraph wires trying
to climb out of sight of the railway-carriage window.

Tonio served Hokey-Pokey all round. Rags had never had any before. It
gave his bones a frightful shock, and he had to take quick gulps of
hot tea between cold gulps of hokey-pokey.

“Regard ze moon,” said Tonio, sticking a wafer in Ginger’s portion.
“Ees she not beautiful, laika pineapple ice?”

“Like a yeller dimond,” gasped Rags, between agony and ecstasy.

The Taxi-Man closed an eye and said, “More like the bottom of a pewter
tankard seen through Four-Ale.”

“Or a new penny,” said Jeremy.

“Like the very best thing a penny can buy,” cried Ginger, “like a penny
balloon. Oh, don’t I wish I could buy the moon for a penny!”

“Why not, child?” said the Balloon Woman, coming round the corner.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

6: THE BALLOON WOMAN]


The Balloon Woman was very large and round, but she was equally
buoyant. Her roundnesses seemed less due to fat than air. Her puffed
cheeks looked as though you might buy them for a penny apiece, if red
was the colour you wanted. This was the first time Gypsy and Ginger had
met her, but the others seemed to know her well. Just now she had only
a few balloons tied to her apron-string, and under her arm she carried
a great bowl of water which she had dipped out of the nearest fountain.

Setting it down she repeated, “Why shouldn’t you buy the moon for a
penny, child? Anything can be bought for a penny, God bless me. Ask
Jeremy.”

“Quite true, Mrs. Green,” said Jeremy. “A penny, as all children know,
is the most complete form of wealth there is. There is no need it
cannot compass and satisfy.”

“But you have first to get your penny,” said the Pavement Artist,
“which often doesn’t happen once in twenty-four hours. And when you’ve
got it, your difficulties have merely begun. You might not only know
what penn’orth you want, but where it is to be got, and how to get
there. You might decide to spend it on a peacock’s feather, which can
very likely be bought for a penny in Peru. But of what use is that to
you in Pimlico?”

“You confine yourself to London, P.A.,” said Jeremy. “London’s brimming
over with penn’orths.”

“Even in London,” said the P.A. dreamily, “you have to spot your man.
If only it were all trades to all men the job would be easy. But if
you’re hungry and want a penny bun, it’s no use applying to the ’bus
conductor; and if you’ve a lust for travel and want a penny ride,
it’s no use asking the flower-girl; and if you’re a nature-lover and
need a bunch of violets, it’s no use looking for the evening newsboy;
and if you’re a reader with a passion for fairy-tales, why go to the
post-office?--and if you want to speed a letter of life or death to
the golden West, the rosy South, the dim blue East, or the wild grey
North----”

“Drat you and your ifs!” scolded Mrs. Green. “I’ve no patience with you
Artists. I deal in facts I do, and balloons is facts till they bust.”

The Punch and Judy man added scornfully, “Too many Ifs was the undoing
of Hamlet. When it come to the point he couldn’t even do a penny
murder.”

“I had a mother once,” said Ginger hurriedly, for she felt a certain
amount of feeling in the air, “who wanted to celebrate my Elder
Sister’s Twenty-first birthday by coming to the tea-party as Hamlet at
four o’clock in the afternoon. My Mother was very impulsive. I had to
spend all my young life in suppressing her impulses.”

Gypsy looked at his wife with renewed interest, and a very little
incredulity. “I wish I’d known your Mother,” he said. “Why shouldn’t
she be Hamlet at four o’clock in the afternoon on your sister’s
twenty-first birthday if she wanted to be?”

“Because I was being Hamlet myself,” said Ginger, “that’s why. And two
of anything’s silly. At least, it is if it’s Hamlet.”

“It isn’t,” said Gypsy, “if it’s chocolate eclairs.”

“Yes, it is,” said Ginger. “Anything less than six chocolate eclairs is
_very_ silly. Will you have a sausage?” she asked Mrs. Green.

“Not me, child. I shall want all my breath,” said Mrs. Green, emptying
a little packet into her bowl and stirring it with a stick until the
liquid became glutinous and frothy. Then she pulled a pipe out of her
apron pocket.

“Bubbles!” cried Ginger dancing up and down. “You’re going to blow
bubbles!”

“God bless the child, no!” said Mrs. Green. “Balloons.”

“Are balloons blown too?” asked Ginger.

“How else did you suppose they was made?” asked Mrs. Green.

“I never did suppose,” said Ginger meekly. “I’ve always taken balloons
for granted until something happened, and they weren’t there to be
taken for anything.”

Mrs. Green put the bowl of the pipe in the liquid, and the stem of it
in her mouth, and puffed. In a moment a flame-coloured balloon had
risen like the sun out of the sea. Everybody clapped. Before she took
it off the pipe Mrs. Green secured it with a string, and added it to
the bundle on her apron. Then she blew a purple one like a plum, then a
peach-coloured one, then half-a-dozen pale green ones, like a cluster
of grapes. It was prettier than fireworks, and more wonderful than
Indian Mangoes that bloom in thirty seconds and die in fifty-nine.

“What a lovely life you have!” breathed Ginger. “I wish I were a
balloon girl.”

“There’s no rest in it,” said Mrs. Green. “It’s like cooking and
housework--has to be done all over again next day. The children are
that demanding and that destructive. You can’t make these things to
last like the pawnbroker’s balls or the Dome of Saint Paul’s.”

“What lungs Sir Christopher Wren must have had,” said Gypsy.

“And Mr. Attenborough,” said Ginger.

“Ah,” said Mrs. Green. “But it’s come and go with balloons.”

“I know,” sighed the Pavement Artist. “They come and they go like our
dreams.”

“They don’t do nothing of the sort,” said Mrs. Green. “They come
and they go like our dinners. But while they’re there, there they
are. Dreams don’t neither come _nor_ go. I’ve no patience with
dreamers.--What’s yours, Tonio?” She had a great stock now, and was
nearly at the bottom of the bowl.

“An orange, eef the Signora pleases,” said the Hokey-Pokey Man, “to
reminda me my native land.”

Mrs. Green blew him an orange balloon and said as she gave it to him,
“There’s all the orange-groves of Italy in that, Tonio. You, Rags?”

“A dimond one,” said Rags, and she blew him a white balloon as clear
as glass. “What’s inside there,” she told Rags, “would make an African
Millionaire take to Abyssinian Pearls in sheer despair.”

For the Lavender and Strawberry Girls she blew their own colours,
telling the one that she now possessed enough lavender to sweeten all
the laundries in London, and the other sufficient strawberries to
feed the House of Commons at tea through a whole summer. The Crossing
Sweeper asked for a green one, because grass needs no sweeping except
by the wind, and he got one as green as the dome of Amberley on the
South Downs. Jeremy chose copper, and the Balloon Woman assured him
that all the slot-machines in England held less than he when he had it,
like a fat brown purse, in his hands. Everybody had something blown
from the Balloon Woman’s bowl. Gypsy had two, one as blue as night and
one as blue as day, because he loved all the time there is, and blue
beyond all the colours there are.

But when Mrs. Green turned at last to Ginger and asked her what one
she’d have, Ginger, who was always as immoderate as a child, pointed up
in the sky and said, “I’ll have that one, please.”

“What a nuisance you are,” said Mrs. Green. “But I suppose you must
have it, or you’ll be crying for it. I expect it can be managed from
Nelson’s shoulder. Just hand me your pick, Rags.”

And this surprising woman began to mount the steps of the Column, pick
in hand. But she had got no further than the lions when a little voice
cried through the night,

“Come out o’ that, will you? Just you leave the moon alone.”



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

7: THE NIGHT WATCHMAN]


The voice came from the roped-in enclosure in the Square where They had
been doing something to London during the day. They are always doing
something to London, either taking it away or putting it back, scraping
it, painting it, or tarring and feathering it. It was one of Gypsy’s
fears that one day They would take it all up at once and put it back in
the wrong places; and it was one of Ginger’s hopes that They would.

“Think how ripping it would be,” said Ginger, “if one morning you found
the Temple Gardens in the Camden Road.”

“But think how horrible it would be,” urged Gypsy, “if one morning you
found the Camden Road in the Temple Gardens.”

“Don’t!” shuddered Ginger.

“Well, that’s the risk, you see. You couldn’t be sure.”

“Why does one sound all right and the other all wrong?” wondered Ginger.

She wondered about it often after this, and decided that the next time
They took up the Camden Road They’d better lose it, and put apple-trees
from Nowhere there instead.

But this is a digression.

“Just you leave the moon alone!” cried the wild little voice from the
Night Watchman’s box in the Square.

Everybody turned to look. What they saw was a small fierce figure in
an old top hat and a long-tailed coat dancing excitedly round and
round the roped-in enclosure. In one hand he had a telescope, and in
the other a pair of field-glasses, both of which he flourished in the
direction of the Balloon Woman.

“You would, would you?” he shrilled. “Come out o’ that, you Mrs.
Green.”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Ginger. “I’m afraid this is all my fault.” She
hurried to the enclosure. “Please do be quiet and tell me why you don’t
want me to have the moon.”

“The thoughtlessness of the young!” said the little man, mopping his
brow with a blue handkerchief dotted with white stars. “It’s all on
account of the likes o’ you that the likes o’ me has to watch the
night. A nice mess she’d get into otherwise.”

“I’m so sorry. Come and have a sausage,” coaxed Ginger.

He shook his head. “Can’t,” he said shortly. “What d’you suppose the
rope’s here for?”

“To keep us out,” suggested Ginger.

“To keep me in,” said the wild little man. “Set a thief to catch a
thief, and one that never knew his place to keep the night in hers. Ah,
many and many a time They’ve set me to watch her because They knew I’m
up to all her tricks. But They have to coop me in, or I’d be off. On
land They put a rope round me; on sea They put me up the mast.”

Ginger beckoned to the others, and they gathered round from the
Weatherhouse. Gypsy brought the teapot with him, and the Night Watchman
was given a cup across the barrier.

“What do you have to watch the night for?” asked Ginger, putting in
five lumps.

“Enough o’ your sugar,” said the little man. “That’s _her_ dodge, too,
sending out all her stars when a chap’s got to try to keep his senses
steady. Too much stars and sugar goes to the heart. What do I have to
watch her for, the jade? A pretty question! So as nothing gets stolen,
for one thing.”

Ginger put her face in her hands.

“You may well!” said the Night Watchman. “Many and many a moon has you
young folk tried to steal. Sometimes you’re too sharp even for me.
But the moon’s not the worst of it. It’s keeping the constellations in
order, especially in August when the shooting stars are about. It goes
to the heads of the old ones when those young ones gets frisking, and
it takes all my time to stop the Horse from kicking the Hunter in the
belt, or the Twins from parting company. ‘Move on there!’ I tell them,
till I’m hoarse. Comets are disorganizing too, in their way, but we’ve
generally time to prepare for them, like the Lord Mayor’s Show. And
then the fixed stars want watching; they’re liable to come un-fixed.”

“Why shouldn’t they?” demanded Gypsy. “About time they did.”

“Futurist!” said the Night Watchman. “But of course it isn’t only the
stars. There’s plenty else to watch the night for.”

“What?” asked Gypsy.

“Ghosts,” said the Night Watchman. “And fairies.” He checked himself,
and handed back his cup abruptly. “There’s all the sounds, too, that
can’t be heard by day--such as the dust settling, and the pavement
cracking, and the tide turning in the Thames. Ah, the pavement takes
a lot of watching, and _still_ you can’t help the cracks coming.
Sometimes one big square will split into half-a-dozen little ones
before you can say Knife!”

“Would that stop it?” asked Ginger.

“It would stop anything if you said it quick enough,” said the Night
Watchman, “but you never do. You may try again and again, and in the
end be no better off than the fools who try to say Jack Robinson. And
again, the night must be watched for the thoughts that won’t come out
in the light. Some of them are too shy. But the boldness of them after
dark! They take a lot of managing, for they’re a disorderly crew, bad
_or_ good. Then on land you watch the night for its moths and bats,
and on sea for its wrecks and its sails. But perhaps the best thing to
watch the night for, on sea or land, is morning.”

“Why?” said Gypsy.

“Because then They come and take the rope away,” said the Night
Watchman.

Then he went into his box and sat on his stool and put his telescope to
his eye and glared at the Pole Star. If the Pole Star had had any idea
of side-slipping it abandoned it instantly, and kept as steady as the
Rock of Gibraltar.

“Who do you think he is?” asked Ginger.

“Nobody knows,” said the P.A.

“I expect he’s Mr. Maeterlinck,” said Gypsy, “or Mr. Devant. But I
don’t care who he is, darling, and one of these days I’ll steal the
moon for you under his very nose. Meanwhile have half my balloons.”

He gave her the bluest balloon, and she hung it over her door of the
Weatherhouse, and he hung the other over his. And Jeremy and the rest
went back home, if they had one, and hung up theirs over their beds, if
they had any.

But nearly all the balloons had disappeared by the morning.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

8: THE GROUNDSEL MAN]


Gypsy and Ginger first saw the Groundsel Man in the early morning. It
was very early morning indeed. The moon had just gone out, and a good
deal of Mother-o’-pearl was left in the sky, and there was a faint
glow over Fleet Street. Of course Gypsy and Ginger couldn’t see Fleet
Street, but they looked that way for the glow. The streets were quite
empty when the Groundsel Man came along, and for this reason alone
you couldn’t have helped noticing him. But you would have noticed him
even in a crowd. His basket was slung in front of him by a strap over
his shoulders, and he limped a little, but his limp, instead of being
a drag, only seemed to make his step livelier, so that he came down
the pavement on the light jerky hop of a chaffinch hopping down a
potato-row after the digger in hope of worms.

“He’s just like the little rabbits Jeremy sells,” said Ginger.

“If you could look under his trousers,” said Gypsy, “you’d find that
instead of feet he has two spiral springs.”

“It’s quite easy to look under his trousers,” said Ginger, “and he
prefers not to wear socks.”

“Another Simple Lifer,” said Gypsy. Most of their friends were.

“But he _has_ got a pretty hat,” said Ginger. “I wish I’d got one like
it.”

His hat was the chief reason why you’d have to notice the Groundsel Man
in a crowd. It was a straw hat of all sorts of shapes and colours, with
no top to the crown and whiskers round the brim. And it was weighed
down by a glorious wreath of buttercups. The Groundsel Man’s basket was
also half buttercups, as well as groundsel and chickweed, and in one
hand he had a short thick thorn-stick, as black and shiny as an old
clay pipe, and in the other he carried a great branch of white wild
roses like a banner. As he stepped by he said,

“Good morning, sir and ma’am. A fine night it’s been and a finer day
_’twill_ be.”

“Are _you_ telling _us_ that?” said Gypsy doubtfully.

“I am, sir. You’re clever little people,” said the Groundsel Man
cheerily, “but it’s not the likes o’ me you can tell about the weather.
My kind needs no weatherhouses.”

“Not even in London?” said Ginger, bringing the teapot.

“I don’t live in Lunnon, ma’am. I only passes through. Lunnon’s a cage,
she is. But her’ll never ketch _me_.”

“Where do you live?” asked Ginger, filling a cup for him; and Gypsy
offered him his tobacco pouch.

“Thank you, ma’am. Thank you, sir. I lives anywheres that a bird may,
ma’am, and after all that’s anywheres there is. In sedges and tree-tops
and the flat tops of hills and hedgerows and the faces of clifts.”

“And the sky?” asked Ginger so eagerly that Gypsy surreptitiously tied
a string round her ankle to haul her in by if she flew up too suddenly.

“As oft as not,” said the Groundsel Man sipping his cup and crumbling
his bread. More than half the crumbs fell to the ground, and he let
them lie.

“Why do you come to London at all?” asked Gypsy.

“To open the bird-cages, sir.”

“What sport,” said Gypsy. “Do you ever get caught?”

“Very seldom, sir. I does it after dark. I takes note of my street by
day, and by night I sets it free. Sometimes the cage is hung outside
the house, and then it’s easy. But other times it stands inside the
window, and then I has to force the catch. I’m doing Lunnon street by
street. When her’s empty I’ll do Manchester. But so fast as I empty
her, her fills up like Philemon’s pitcher.”

“What sort of birds do you let out?” asked Ginger.

“Every sort, ma’am. Canaries and parrots and redpoles and
skylarks--yes, ma’am, I’ve known houses as even keeps skylarks in
cages. Once I found a Red Cardinal in Bethnal Green. I hopes he flew
back to South Ameriky, but if not there’s warm spots in Hampshire.”

“You’ll have a grand time,” said Gypsy, passing him the matches, “the
night you do the Zoo.”

The Groundsel Man puffed hard, and disappeared entirely behind a cloud
of smoke; out of which he piped shrilly, “Flamingoes!” The cry was like
a thin streak of lightning passing through a thunder-cloud.

Ginger asked, “What happens when you _do_ get caught?”

“I sells them a bunch of groundsel for their dickies,” he said. “Oh,
that’s all right, ma’am. The birds doesn’t suffer, neither way. And so
soon as the basket’s empty, back I goes to fill it up.”

“Back where?” asked Ginger.

“Anywheres,” he said vaguely.

“Do you sell buttercups too?” she asked.

“No, ma’am. Buttercups is my pleasure. Well, so is the groundsel too,
mine and the birds’. But this sort of gold can’t be sold for pence to
the keepers of cages. They’ll sometimes cage robins, ma’am, robins
that’ll come into your house for company like your brother. But what
sort of company is one in a cage? Will they play pretty like the Robin
of Cold-harbour?”

“Who’s he?” asked Gypsy.

“A little chap I knows. He goes to church on week-days. First time I
seed him he was sitting in the pulpit singing fit to bust, so sweet as
any parson.”

Gypsy said doubtfully, “Do parsons?”

“Don’t they, sir? I supposed they did, else why do the folk go? But
I never heard one myself. It’s mostly some other bird I’m listening
to o’ Sundays, the daws at their games round the chalk-pits, or the
plovers swooping on the Downs, or the larks you can’t see for the air
in between. But when my Robin’s done his Glory-Glory, down he hops
to a pewback, and so hops all down the aisle like a stone on a pond,
skipping one pew at each hop. And when he gets to the end he thinks,
What can I do next? and he looks at the stained glass windows and Pooh!
cries he. And he chooses a clear pane of glass under a Saint, and flies
up and sits against it with the sun on his breast as red as a ruby. And
there he sings Glory-Glory all over again, and out he flies. Would you
cage that bird, ma’am?”

“I wouldn’t cage anything!” said Ginger angrily, “and I’m going to
Manchester by the next train.”

Gypsy took another reef in his string.

“Well, it’s time somebody did,” said Ginger.

“Don’t you fret, ma’am,” said the Groundsel Man. “I’ll get there all in
good season. Would you like some buttercups?”

“Yes, please,” said Ginger, running for a bowl, which she filled at the
fountain.

The Groundsel Man put his buttercups into it carefully, and then with
a sort of hop and flutter he was up on the roof of the weatherhouse,
perched for a moment on the chimney, where he stuck his branch of
wild-rose. The glow from Fleet Street was now so strong that the small
white burnet blossoms looked like puffs of golden smoke. Then he gave
another flutter and disappeared.

Ginger ran round the corner to catch him, but when she got there she
could see nothing but the sparrows quarrelling round the Nelson Column,
and the pigeons flying from the spire of St. Martin’s to the Dome of
the National Gallery.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY]


It was after the visit of the Groundsel Man that Gypsy realised that
life is not all play.

“The time has come,” said Gypsy, with his mouth full of tacks----

He was trying the effect of sausages in festoons round the walls
of the Weatherhouse. Something had to be done with the sausages,
which accumulated daily in increasing quantities as Gypsy and Ginger
accumulated friends. There was no cupboard-room in the Weatherhouse,
and Gypsy agreed with William Morris that the Useful is not
incompatible with the Decorative.

“The time has come, Ginger,” said Gypsy, “for us to take things
seriously.”

“I know it,” said Ginger, picking up an odd length of sausages and
beginning to skip to the old tune of

                      “Andy Spandy,
                      Sugardy Candy,
                        French
                        Almond
                        Rock!
    Breadandbutterforyoursupper’sallyourMother’s
                                               GOT!”

“It’s all very well,” said Gypsy, between hammer-strokes, “for us to
be light-hearted in our own lives, and even in the comparatively grave
matter of earning our living; but as well as that we must remember that
the world is full crying of evils----”

“You can’t really skip with sausages,” said Ginger, giving it up.

“Just hand that length over, if you’ve quite done with it,” said Gypsy.
“The West Frieze wants completing.”

“I’ll dust them off a bit first,” said Ginger. “What do the evils cry
for?”

“Reform,” said Gypsy.

“Then let’s reform them,” said Ginger. “But we needn’t cry along with
them, need we?”

“That,” said Gypsy, “would merely be piling Peleus on Ossian.” (I
think I mentioned that he had got his education in Cambridge; but his
classics were good enough for Ginger, who had never got her education
anywhere.) “No,” he said, festooning the final sausage, “it’s no use
crying over spilt evils. It’s better to mop them up laughing. How do
you like that, darling?”

“The _line_ is beautiful,” said Ginger, putting her head on one side
and shutting her eye on the other. “But the colour-scheme is pasty.”

“It improves in the frying-pan,” said Gypsy. “But enough of Aesthetics.
Let us return to Sociology. What evil are _you_ going to reform?”

“Twenty seconds,” pleaded Ginger.

He took out his watch.

“Time!” called Gypsy, as Ginger called, “Got mine!”

“Got mine too!” said Gypsy. “What’s yours?”

“Croquet!” cried Ginger.

“Bamboo furniture!” cried Gypsy.

“Why do you want to reform croquet? I rather like croquet, and I play
it rather well.”

“The better the worse!” said Ginger fiercely.

“You feel this subject passionately,” said Gypsy thoughtfully.

“Yes, I do.”

“Perhaps you play it badly?”

“That’s got nothing to do with it,” said Ginger quickly. Then she
contradicted herself still more quickly. “Yes, it has, though. However
you play croquet has to do with it. The only thing is not to play it at
all. Croquet is the root of all the ill-temper there is. If you could
once kill the spirit of croquet throughout the world, there’d be no
more wars.”

“How will you start?” asked Gypsy.

“With a forceps,” said Ginger promptly. “The strongest forceps owned by
the most famous dentist in New York, because American dentists are the
best. Then I shall go all over the world in the middle of the night,
pulling up all the hoops on all the croquet-lawns I can find.”

“Like so many double-teeth,” said Gypsy.

“And I hope they’ll hurt,” said Ginger vindictively.

“I’m sorry you feel it so bitterly,” said Gypsy, “but I suppose things
have to be felt like that before they can be reformed.”

“Don’t _you_ feel bamboo like that?”

Gypsy shuddered. “I had an aunt in Wisbech once,” he said. “She died of
a tea-heart.”

“I’m sorry,” said Ginger gently.

“Oh, it didn’t matter,” said Gypsy. “After all she had to die of
something, and it’s much better to die of what you like than of what
you don’t. Men and women die of tobacco and tea with enthusiasm, where
they would only resent death from German Measles or Mexican Gulps.”

“Do people die of Mexican Gulps?” asked Ginger.

“They would if they got it,” said Gypsy, “but they don’t.”

“It sounds like geography,” said Ginger, “and I very nearly died of
that when I was a child. So I was inoculated against it, and I don’t
even know where Wisbech is.”

“It’s not important,” said Gypsy. “But if you live in Wisbech, and
buy enough tea at a certain shop, you can in time furnish your house
from attic to basement with gratis bamboo. Why, you couldn’t buy two
ounces without a bamboo bonus in the shape of a walking-stick or a
curtain-pole; and for a whole pound, of course, you got hatstands
and overmantels. After a while there were bamboo hatstands on every
landing, and bamboo overmantels under as well as over all the
mantelpieces. We were presently obliged to take all our meals at
separate little bamboo tables, like the best boarding-houses and the
worst tea-shops. Of course, the little tables wore out very quickly,
quite often giving way in the joints in the middle of meals, but more
and more came along, and we never succeeded in living them down. We
sat on bamboo stools while we ate, and there were bamboo waste paper
baskets and bookcases, and a bamboo side-board, and I _think_ a
bamboo piano. I know there were bamboo beds. Mine broke down every
other night, but my aunt was such a confirmed tea-drinker that a new
one always appeared next day.” Here Gypsy suddenly stood on his head,
kicking his feet in the air, and letting out prolonged wails like a
dog made miserable by the moon. Then he got down and sat up again, and
Ginger who, as he spoke, had turned paler and paler, held his hands
very tight, and they remained silent until they both felt better.

Then Gypsy groaned, “Yet cities could be such beautiful places.”

“Yes,” sighed Ginger, “if it weren’t for the people in the red brick
houses having all the almond trees. People who live in the grey stone
houses ought to have them. But the first almond trees in London
_always_ bloom against red brick.”

“I know,” growled Gypsy, growing wild-eyed again. “And then, the
corrugated iron! Oh, _galvanize_ the man who first thought of
corrugating iron.”

“There’s a worse evil than corrugated iron,” whispered Ginger. “There
are wired flowers. Wired flowers are as dreadful as caged birds. We
won’t interfere with the Groundsel Man’s job, but oh, Gypsy! to-night
I’m going out to un-wire all the flowers in Piccadilly!” Her eyes shone
like the Gemini as she said it.

“Brave child!” said Gypsy. “But before you go, put the flat-irons on
the brazier, please.”

“What for?” said Ginger.

“Because,” said Gypsy, “_I_ shall go out and uncorrugate the iron.”



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER GET TO WORK]


You may remember the Season, not so very long ago, when Londoners used
to wake up every morning wondering Well Really What Next. A good many
surprising and beautiful things happened during those brief weeks, and
they were all due to the nocturnal efforts of Gypsy, Ginger, and their
friends.

At first Ginger stuck to her pet reform of Unwiring Flowers, and Gypsy
to his of Uncorrugating Iron. Not a night passed without some suburb
having all its roses unmuzzled. Not a night passed without the roof of
some Army Hut or Tennis-Club Pavilion being straightened out by Gypsy’s
flat-iron. The process, of course, exactly doubled the length of the
roof, so that yards used to jut out at either end. The Tennis-Players
were considerably annoyed; and in the Army, Fatigue Duty resolved
itself into sitting on the roof with a pair of curling-tongs, and
crinkling the roofs back to their normal proportions. The soldiers who
had been hair-dressers were the best at it, and some really beautiful
work in Marcel Waving was put in by the experts for the Y.M.C.A. The
Army minded it less than the Sportsmen, for they might just as well
corrugate the iron on the roof as pick up the Woodbine stumps on the
floor. But Gypsy was practically the death of local sport that summer,
all the club-time being occupied in doing up what he had undone
overnight. He gave some trouble, too, to Noncomformists and Sheltered
Cabmen.

But Gypsy didn’t really want to stop sport. He liked sport. He himself
could put such a twist on a serve that it would come back and hit his
partner of its own accord; and in the cricket-field he never hit
anything under Boundaries and Catches at Cover. His Innings consisted
of exactly one of each. At the beginning of his Club Season the Scorer
always made out his analysis in advance to save trouble:

                Average
    GYPSY 4

it would run. If everyone had played Gypsy’s sort of cricket there
would have been no need to talk of brightening the game. His cricket
was as bright and as brief as a lucifer. It favoured the two-hour
match. So he was really sorry to make the Houndsditch Hatters’ Second
Eleven spend all their practice time in crinkling the pavilion roof.
Also it vexed him to work on the system of Penelope’s Web. Presently he
took to clipping the ends off the roofs after they were straightened.
This checkmated the Cricketers and Tennis-Players, because when they
attempted to re-corrugate the roof there wasn’t enough of it left over
to keep out the weather. So they had to send for some more.

During the days of waiting Gypsy turned the time to account, and ironed
out all the Cabmen’s Shelters on the No. 11 Bus route. But somebody
else was now beginning to make good use of his efforts. An Unknown
Quantity was also mysteriously at work under the moon.

One night, as Ginger was going home bent nearly double under a great
load of rusty wires after a busy hour among the lilies of Sloane
Square, she met Gypsy, flat-iron in hand, staring at one of his
flattened rooms like a man in a trance.

“What are you looking at?” asked Ginger.

“That!” said Gypsy, pointing upward.

She shifted her faggot and gazed at the roof, which bore this legend in
luminous white paint:

     THERE IS NO TRUTH IN THE RUMOUR THAT
     THIS UGLY IF UTILITARIAN ROOF IS TO
     BE REPLACED WITH A BEAUTIFUL THATCH

“Why did you do that?” asked Ginger.

“I didn’t,” said Gypsy.

“Who did, then?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” said Gypsy.

It was only the beginning. Soon his other roofs began to be adorned
with similar statements. A shelter in Kensington inquired:

     WHO HAS BEEN CIRCULATING THE FICTION
     THAT OLD WEATHER-STAINED TILES ARE
     THE LATEST FASHION FOR CABMEN?
     THEY ARE NOT!

And a Canteen in Putney asserted:

     THE REPORT IS ABSOLUTELY UNFOUNDED
     THAT BEFORE LONG THIS UNPREPOSSESSING
     HUT WILL RESEMBLE THE LOG-CABINS OF
     THE EARLY SETTLERS

These suggestions, and others equally attractive, were gradually being
negatived on iron roofs in every quarter of London.

If Gypsy and Ginger were mysteries to the Cricket-Clubs and
Flower-sellers, the unknown Luminous Painter was a mystery to them. But
at last they discovered him.

They had taken half an hour off one night to look at the pattern of
the moon on the river, and they found him standing in the middle
of Westminster Bridge. He was very tall and lean, and wore a tight
frock-coat that was quite a good green. It had once been rather a poor
black. His soft felt hat was also green, and even he did not know what
its first colour was. When they caught sight of him he was engaged in
removing the hat from his head with an exquisite gesture, and bowing
right and left with an unexampled grace. But for themselves there
was nobody else on the bridge, yet he performed his courtly salute
again and again, north and south, east and west. His deportment was
as expressive as it was beautiful; it expressed deference without
humility, airiness without impudence, and it paid a compliment not only
to the recipient, but to the executor, of the bow.

“What _are_ you doing?” cried Ginger, advancing with an involuntary
curtsey.

The individual almost swept the ground with his hat.

“Madam,” he said, sweetly, “I am Bowing to the Circumstances.”

“What Circumstances?” inquired Ginger.

“My own Circumstances, madam. They require it of me frequently.
They require it, alas! of many people. But it is one of the Lost
Accomplishments of the age. One of the many. These things were once
done with a grace----!”

He dusted and replaced his hat. “They stand saluted!” he said.

“I don’t believe that Circumstances which require bowing to _ought_ to
be saluted,” objected Ginger. “Why do you bow to them?”

“In acknowledgment, dear madam,” said the shabby gentleman, “that I am
not what I was.”

“What were you?” asked Ginger.

“A Professor, madam.”

“And what are you?” asked Gypsy.

“At the moment, sir, I am Contradictor of Rumours.”

“You contradict them on my roofs!” cried Gypsy.

“I have that honour, sir,” said the ex-Professor.



[Illustration: 9. The Professor of Neglected Accomplishments

GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS]


“It was you,” said Gypsy, “who contradicted the rumour that the Kilburn
Tennis-club was to re-roof itself in Horsham Slate?”

“The most beautiful of all roofings, sir. Yes, it was I.”

“It was you,” said Gypsy, “who refuted the suggestion that the
Noncomformist Chapels should return to Ancient Greece----”

“In the matter of architecture, sir. That also was I.”

“It was you,” continued Gypsy, “who denied the unfounded report
that the tops of the Whitechapel Shelters were to be converted into
Hanging-Gardens.”

“Myself, sir, and no other.”

“Who said there _were_ to be Hanging-Gardens in Whitechapel?” asked
Gypsy.

“Nobody, sir.”

“Then why do you say there are _not_ to be?”

“Well, it’s true, sir, isn’t it?”

“It’s so true,” said Gypsy, “that why waste paint on it?”

“Because,” said the ex-Professor, “no truth can resist persistent
denial for ever. That is--yes, I fear I am getting mixed. But have
you not observed how the newspapers will frequently force a statement
on you, or at least lodge a suspicion in you, by contradicting some
rumour of which you’ve never heard until they say it isn’t true? The
affirmation was negative, the denial is positive. When they’ve denied
it long enough, day after day, in every column from the Leaders to the
Book Reviews, it becomes an unshakeable fact. I am at present devoting
my life to establishing rumours by denying them. Once public opinion
swallows them, the rest is automatic. I have energetically denied the
rumour, for instance, of a Red Noah’s Ark in Bermondsey. It would cheer
Bermondsey greatly. And before long I really hope to see in Whitechapel
those Hanging Gardens, which, as I have repeatedly stated, are not for
one instant under consideration by anybody.”

“What a tophole idea!” said Gypsy.

“The credit is not all mine, sir,” said the ex-Professor. “Let us give
the newspapers their due. Contradicting the Rumour is one of the more
modern accomplishments, and smacks of modern manners; in other days we
should have preferred Dallying with the Notion, but we cannot look for
the old-world polish in the newspaper of to-day. If it has not the
culture of the Eighteenth Century, it does not lack dexterity; and in
the art of Forcing the Statement it is as deft as a conjuror with a
pack of cards. Yet--a vulgar art!” The ex-Professor sighed. “I never
taught it myself.”

“What _did_ you teach?” asked Ginger curiously.

“A hundred activities and accomplishments which are now treated in the
most perfunctory fashion, madam. Have you ever, may I ask, Risen to the
Occasion?”

“Never,” said Ginger.

“I’ve tried to,” said Gypsy. “It seldom came off.”

“And why? You had never studied it, sir. It is an acquired art which
in theory should be taught in the schoolroom, in practice in the
gymnasium. How,” he continued with fire, “without our Text-books and
Classes can we perfect ourselves in the arts which make life replete
with _finesse_? How many of us are conversant with the most graceful
way of Receiving an Impression? For the most part we Receive our
Impressions anyhow, at haphazard. We should Receive them as we would
our guests. Again which of us can really felicitously Rejoice in the
Name of--Alfred, or Ernest, or Harriet, as the case may be? The human
being does not live who cannot be said to Rejoice in some such Name.
But does he? Does he, in fact, know how? Of course he does not; he was
never taught how. It took me years of toil before I could Rejoice in
the Name of Valentine. My first attempts were gauche. But I succeeded
at last.”

“_We_ Rejoice in _our_ Names,” said Ginger, and told him them.

His eye brightened. “Who would not Rejoice in such Names? There is
a tongue in the cheek of either of them. But I take it they are not
Baptismal?”

“Does that affect the question?” asked Gypsy.

“To a certain extent (and let us not be callous--some Questions are
so easily Affected, although others, of sterner calibre, have to be
Begged),” said the ex-Professor. “No, it is chiefly in the Names
bestowed on us by M or N, that we are said to Rejoice. It can often
only be done with an effort.

“What we need,” said the ex-Professor ardently, “is expert guidance on
all those subtleties which we are asked to do by intuition: as though
one could Jazz, or Throw the Discobolus, by intuition! Repeatedly
the Social Code requires you to Contain Yourself, a thing possibly
to be achieved by a stern suppressive course of Somebody’s System,
but whose? What branch of physical training will develop in us the
muscular fitness needed in Exercising the Prerogative and Adhering
to the Principle? What Polytechnic offers us a course of instruction
in Drawing the Comparison, Creating the Precedent, Improving the
Hour, Making Good? Who will educate us in the fine shades of those
more negative accomplishments, Ignoring the Facts, Withdrawing the
Confidence, and Leaving Well Alone? And It! there’s so much to be
done with It! A three years’ course might be devoted alone to Turning
It Over, Letting It Slide, Cutting It Fine, Making the Best of It,
Overdoing It, Chancing It, Chucking It....

“I look forward to the day when these things shall be the staple
subjects of our Board Schools, Intellectually and Athletically; when,
after a concentrated hour spent in class Accounting for Tastes or
Changing the Opinion, the children shall troop jollily across the
asphalte playground Leaping at Conclusions, Dodging the Question, and
Casting the Doubt. Here a group of merry girls are Going to Extremes,
yonder a band of breathless boys are Stopping at Nothing. Further off
the School Glutton is greedily Eating his Words or Chewing the Cud
of Thought, while the School Miser is bent on Doing It for Two Pins
and Profiting by the Example. In a secluded corner, alas! the School
Bully will frequently be found Twisting a Meaning, Stifling an Oath, or
Strangling a Conviction, for boys will be boys, and Human Nature does
not change. And perhaps it never will until an accomplishment common to
half mankind has been eliminated, and we cease to be born past-masters
and mistresses in Believing the Worst.”

“Don’t be downhearted,” said Ginger optimistically; “there’s always the
other half of mankind, you know.”

“I am indebted to you, dear madam,” said the ex-Professor, “for
reminding me of it.”

“Used you really to teach all these things?” asked Gypsy.

“For a short while only. I endeavoured to interest the Board of
Education, but forty years later the War came along too soon.
Instantly all the Boards in England became exclusively composed of
Recruiting-Sergeants, to whom but one of my arts appealed--that of
Calling up the Old Reminiscence. It was my ruin.”

He sighed; then hastily bowed right and left once more, and rose up
smiling.

“We waste time,” he said. “We might have been Contradicting Rumours
this hour gone by. Believe me, the roofs of corrugated London shall yet
be beautified.”

“And why should it stop there?” cried Ginger with enthusiasm. “Once we
begin to Contradict Rumours, there’s simply no limit to what we can
deny. When the Freedom of the Flowers is fully established I shall take
this up with you. Why, in time we might reform all London!”



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER REFORM LONDON]


Ginger was as good as her word. And as her word was always good enough
for Gypsy, he added his efforts to hers in Contradicting Rumours with
all his might. One by one they enlisted their friends in the scheme,
at first directing their efforts, but soon leaving them to their own
devices. Except Rags, who followed Ginger about like a little dog. The
wires from the released roses had all been given to Rags, who swore he
had a use for them; and he evidently had, for he got a brand-new pair
of second-hand boots on the strength of them. So he had no compunction
in letting him tramp the streets with her at night.

Her first idea was to do something for the Orphans. As she said
shuddering to the little man, “Those hats, Rags!”

So one morning London awoke to find placards to this effect on every
Orphan Asylum in and round the town:

    WE CANNOT IMAGINE WHENCE THE FABRICATION AROSE THAT ORPHANS ARE TO
    WEAR LIBERTY HATS THIS SUMMER

This idea was presented daily to London just at the moment when she had
begun to digest the possibility of a substitute for Corrugated Iron.
Indeed, some rather beautiful timbered roofs were already under way in
Hackney, and Turnham Green was discussing the relative merits of thatch
_versus_ tiles. Whitechapel too had cottoned to the notion of Hanging
Gardens. The Cabmen’s Shelters were becoming positive bowers, as the
ex-Professor reported with great satisfaction at the Weatherhouse,
where everybody assembled regularly at daybreak to discuss the next
night’s plan of action.

Ginger was overjoyed. “What a delightful sight it must be,” she said,
“to see the Cabmen hanging in the Gardens, as they drink their
gingerbeer.”

“And dream of Babylon,” added Gypsy.

“_Quite_ so,” said the Taxi-Man.

The scheme succeeded from the first. Ginger and Rags had not much
trouble with the Orphans. They had not even to wait for Public Opinion;
the Orphan Asylums themselves soon saw no reason why the above
Fabrication should remain one.

On the day the Orphans began to troop through London in graceful hats
with coloured scarves and happy faces, the Public was confronted
everywhere with this announcement (Gypsy’s):

    NO! IT IS _NOT_ TRUE THAT THE MEMBERS OF THE STOCK EXCHANGE ARE
    GIVING A BEANFEAST TO ALL THE POOR CHILDREN IN BETHNAL GREEN

This took more doing. But nine days of incessant repudiation got on the
Members’ nerves. They began to find it difficult to look strangers in
the eye. They began to observe how studiously their friends refrained
from references to Bethnal Green in their presence. They began to feel
that they were shabby fellows. And hang it all! _why_ wasn’t it true
that they were giving a Beanfeast to the Children of Bethnal Green? why
_shouldn’t_ they give a Beanfeast if they wanted to?

In the end Bethnal Green got such a Beanfeast as it had never dreamed
of in all its young life.

After this the surprises came fast and thick. Under the obstinate
influence of contradiction, the owners of almond and pink may trees in
red-brick houses transferred these voluntarily to the front gardens of
dwellers in white or grey stone houses. The aesthetic advantage would
not be visible till next spring, but London was beginning to be endowed
with a sense of vision.

There were also immediate reforms in the front gardens, whose
beds defied at last the rigid and time-dishonoured conscription of
marguerite, geranium, and lobelia. It was the dawn of a floral era
wilder, more exquisite, and much more experimental.

And Society ceased to wear Humming-birds in its Hats--this was perhaps
Ginger’s greatest triumph. It was a stiff battle. After heavy nights
of repudiation she would come back to the Weatherhouse such a rag,
that even her devoted little follower couldn’t have sold her at a
penny a pound. But she won at last. She had two strong posters on the
subject; one denying strenuously that feathers were old-fashioned,
the other ridiculing the suggestion that a strip of gaily-embroidered
house flannel, frayed and fringed, was Millinery’s _Dernier Cri_. It
attracted the attention of LOUISE, who immediately exhibited a model
on these lines in her windows. The Duchesses fell to it, and the
Humming-Birds were saved.

As I said, Gypsy and Ginger allowed their friends to follow their own
fancies.

     WHAT MISINFORMED PERSON HAS BEEN
     SPREADING THE REPORT THAT SHRIMPS AND
     LOBSTERS ARE TO CHANGE PRICES
     EVERY OTHER DAY

ran Rags’ best effort (Ginger helped him with the spelling).

     A FALSE WHISPER HAS GOT ABROAD THAT THE
     BENCHES AS WELL AS THE WICKET-KEEPERS IN
     LORD’S CRICKET GROUND ARE TO BE
     PADDED THIS SEASON

(This was the Taxi-Man’s.)

     WE HAVE IT ON THE VERY BEST AUTHORITY
     THAT OLIVE AND MYRTLE TREES WILL
     NOT BE PLANTED FROM END TO END
     OF THE CITY ROAD

(Tonio.)

     THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT SKY-ROCKETS ARE TO BE
     LET OFF EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT ON STREATHAM
     COMMON CAN OBVIOUSLY ONLY BE REGARDED
     AS A PRACTICAL JOKE

(The Balloon Woman.)

     WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

(asked the Pavement Artist--)

     WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FABULOUS ASSERTION
     THAT THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WILL
     PERFORM DURING THE LUNCHEON HOUR AT
     SAM ISAAC’S FISH-SHOPS?

One after another these seeds bore fruit--and as many other seeds, all
bearing on the comfort or the gaiety of the Metropolis.

It was the Punch-and-Judy Man who, affected by the weariness of the
City Clerks waiting an hour in queue to book their tickets in the
Tubes, induced Madame Clara Butt, Sir Harry Lauder, and Mdlle. Adeline
Genée, to attend the principal stations at going-home time, and relieve
the tedium with song and dance. It only wanted suggesting to these
kind-hearted artists that nobody expected such a thing of them. They
responded at once.

It was a still greater surprise when Sir Joseph Lyons, after Jeremy’s
emphatic assertion to the contrary, opened a Free-Penny-Bun-Shop on
the Embankment for children under twelve with an income of less than
Twopence a Week.

London was becoming a really beautiful place to live in.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

10: THE POLICEMAN]


But while the General Public grew daily more responsive to the
nocturnal suggestions of Gypsy, Ginger, and their friends, the
Authorities began to take alarm. Reforms were occurring at a pace which
made them giddy. And London was acquiring a taste for Initiative which
bothered them. Initiative was their feudal prerogative. They had given
it a good run for its money in 1066, and now, like an old blind petted
house-dog, kept it tenderly on the Westminster hearthrug, and gave it
soft sops for its aged gums. Yet somehow this summer it had escaped and
run amok: they heard it barking like a young pup, and saw it wag its
tail in every street. And wherever it went London voluntarily arrayed
herself in Couleur de Rose. The Authorities had always preferred her in
the stronger tone of Red Tape. They had been saying to her for so many
years, “Red is your Colour, dear,” that she nearly believed it, and
they did quite.

So they sent to Scotland Yard for a Policeman, and gave him a Roving
Commission. Policemen are generally born to their Beat; it is extremely
difficult to disattach any of these men from his walk in life, and,
in the older Constabulary families, where the Beat is entailed, it
is impossible. But now and again a Younger Son is born for whom it
is awkward to provide. One of these was hanging around the Yard that
summer, and it was he who was told off to perambulate London at his
own free will, and discover the conspiracy that was turning sacred
institutions topsy-turvy. At head-quarters the conspirators were
registered as The Moonshiners.

Lionel was enchanted with his job.

It was Gypsy who was the first to scent a public danger at large in
lamplit London. The Regular Policeman is not the public danger you
might suppose. He goes like a metronome, and you have only to time his
beat. Between his two appearances practically anything can be done. But
the Roving Constable is another question altogether. At any moment he
may take you by surprise, like a rainbow in April.

He took Gypsy by surprise outside a baker’s shop in Kentish Town,
opposite a Bus-stop. That night Gypsy was making a round of the
Bus-stops, denying a rumour that Moving Staircases were being
contemplated by the Omnibus Companies to Save the Conductresses’ Feet.
Gypsy had just let the Regular Policeman go by, and was about to paint
his sign in peacock blues and greens on the baker’s window, when Lionel
tapped him on the shoulder.

“Wot are you doing here?” said Lionel. It is the first question given
under the heading “Burglars” in the _Policeman’s Guide to Conversation_.

Gypsy was used to taking situations in at glances. He instantly saw
that the whole fabric of the Moonshiners was threatened, and he
answered with great presence of mind,

“I am trying to steal a plum cake.”

“Wot for?” said Lionel.

“Because I could do with it,” said Gypsy engagingly. And it was true.
Gypsy never paused to consider his interior without discovering that he
could do with plum cake.

“’Ow were you thinking of stealing it?” asked Lionel.

“I was going to try to smash the window,” said Gypsy.

“I’m serprised at you,” said Lionel sternly. “Think of the row you’d
’ave made, and everybody tired out wanting their night’s rest.”

“I should have tried to smash it quietly,” said Gypsy.

“I’m serprised at you,” said Lionel still more sternly. “You might ’ave
cut your pore ’and.”

He put his own hand in his pocket and gave Gypsy sixpence. “Now don’t
you go making no more disturbances,” he said. “There’s a coffee stall
up the street, second on the left. Move on.”

“Robert,” said Gypsy warmly, “where do you live?”

“Winchester Mews, N.W. 3,” said Lionel, “and my name’s Lionel. Move on.”

“It’s no name for the Beaten Track,” said Gypsy thoughtfully.

“I don’t follow no Beaten Track,” said Lionel. “All London’s my Beat,
and the Moonshiners is my mark. And as sure as my name’s wot it is, one
of these fine nights I’ll run ’em to earth.”

“Wouldn’t it be better,” said Gypsy, looking at the moon, “to run them
to heaven?”

“Wot do you take me for?” asked Lionel with dignity. “A member of the
Air-Force? Move on.”

Gypsy moved on, drank his coffee and ate his slab of cake in Lionel’s
name, and hurried back to do his sign. But instead of saying “The
Conductresses’ Feet” it now said,

     THE CONDUCTRESSES’ POOR FEET

This human note (due entirely to Lionel) touched the General Omnibus
Co.’s heart, and it convened a Board-Meeting on the spot. But long
before that Gypsy had hastened home and conveyed the tidings to his
fellow-conspirators. He was always a little excitable in telling a
tale, and he swore that as Lionel left him he threw behind him on
the pavement the shadow, not of a man, but of Scotland Yard, which
by some trick of the moon with a cloud changed to the shadow of a
Handley-Page, and finally spread itself to the semblance of a flying
angel.

Mrs. Green said, “You and your fancies, nonsense!”

But the Night Watchman said, “Of course. A human being can throw any
shadow he pleases, or doesn’t please. If you want to know a man, look
at his shadow by moonlight.”

Everybody began at once to look at everybody else’s shadow, and to hide
his own; and for a little while the shadows flickered over Trafalgar
Square like flowers in the wind, and birds on the wing, and swimming
fish. Just as you thought you had a man he would slip his shadow into
that of Nelson, or a Lion, or a Church, or a Hotel, or the National
Gallery, and you lost him. Shadow Hide-and-Seek became rather a
favourite pastime round the Weatherhouse after this.

But to-night the Taxi-Man soon called them to order.

“Enough of shadows,” he commanded. “We’re up against a danger, and it’s
got to be tackled. If our work’s to go on, Lionel must be diddled.”

“But who’s to diddle him?” asked Ginger.

“The Picadilly Flower-Girls,” said the Taxi-Man.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS

11. The Piccadilly Flower Girls]


The Piccadilly Flower-Girls were fascinating people with fragrant
names like Lily, Rose and Violet. It was these damsels, or their
grand-mothers, whom the Taxi-Man declared he had delivered from dragons
during the Discovery of London. They would, he said, do anything for
him.

“Out of sheer gratitude?” asked Ginger.

“Not a bit of it,” said the Taxi-Man. “Out of sheer joy. And if Lionel
can resist ’em, he’s not the Roving Policeman I take him to be.”

“Lionel mustn’t be hurt,” said Gypsy. “I love Lionel, and if the
pillar-box runs to it I’m going to leave a Buszard Cake on his
Winchester Mews doorstep to-morrow. It will be a plum cake with almond
icing, and I shall have it frosted an inch thick, with pink sugar
doves, and LIONEL done on it in silver balls, like bits of quicksilver
on the carpet when you break the puzzle by accident.”

“I used to break it on purpose,” said Ginger. “Mother always said I
mustn’t eat them.”

“Good gracious, I should think not!” said Gypsy.

“I mean the silver balls,” said Ginger. “I don’t know why, but I was
never allowed to eat the silver balls till I was ten years old.”

“She was afraid of you choking,” said Mrs. Green.

“I knows a perfickly wunnerful cure for hiccups,” mentioned Rags.

“Don’t tell me,” said Gypsy quickly. “I and my brothers never
discouraged hiccups. I held the Hiccup Gold-Belt with a record of
127. An interval of three minutes brought the break to a close. The
last thirty seconds used to be a fearful struggle. It is my brother
Albert who holds the Silver Sneezing Cup. If you held it through three
successive Epidemics, you kept it. He was passionately devoted to
sneezing. When he was nine he made out a list of twenty things he liked
best in the world. The First was Sneezing and the Second was Mother. He
had no equal, too, in blowing out candles with his nose.”

“You never told me about your brother Albert before,” said Ginger.

“Would it have made any difference?” asked Gypsy, so anxiously that she
hastened to reassure him. And whenever Ginger began to reassure Gypsy
about anything, or Gypsy Ginger, it was time for their friends to go.

The next night the Piccadilly Flower-Girls came into action. The plan
was very simple. Four Girls were told off to every Moonshiner, and
two watched at each end of the street in which their protégé was at
work. As soon as Lionel appeared in the distance, one would fly to
warn--Ginger, or Jeremy, as the case might be, while the other stayed
behind to diddle Lionel for exactly one minute. Any policeman can be
diddled for that length of time. Then he reverts to type. But Rose in
her radiant shawls, shedding damask petals like confetti round Lionel’s
bewildered feet: or Lily floating her silver scarf before Lionel’s
dazzled eyes, leaving one ivory bloom upon his helmet as she vanished:
or Violet in her dusky veil, rising from the purple shadows to murmur
music in Lionel’s intoxicated ear: was enough to dissolve the force of
habit in any official--for sixty seconds.

Then Rose danced by, or Lily melted into thin air, or Violet sank
shyly back into her shades; and Lionel turned the corner and
discovered--Ginger, or Jeremy, as the case might be. And either would
be seated in the middle of the road on a campstool inside a square of
rope.

This was the Night Watchman’s idea. Any man, he said, sitting publicly
inside a square of rope, will be taken for granted. Not even a
policeman will question his position; the man inside the rope is as
Cæsar’s Wife. For one thing, he must have been put there, and when one
has already been handled by a higher power, one need not be re-handled
by a lesser. It is only when one is obviously handling oneself that
Authority smells danger. And nobody, said the Night Watchman ever
really thinks that a man could be such a fool as deliberately to put
himself inside a rope.

So every Moonshiner now went forth with rope and campstool, and each in
turn discovered the wisdom of the Night Watchman. One by one they made
Lionel’s acquaintance, and one by one they loved him.

He had to be loved, he was so trustful. For instance, he trusted
Ginger. A woman inside the ropes would have aroused any other
policeman’s sense of the unusual. Even he, struck by her sex, said when
they encountered, “Wot are you doing here?” She answered, “Oh, Women on
the Land, you know,” and he believed her at once.

Then there was the case of Jeremy.

The first time he found Jeremy sitting inside his rope, he said, “Wot
are you doing here, you’re no night watchman. You’re a street hawker, I
seen you last Friday selling paper windmills in Farringdon Street.”

“That wasn’t I,” said Jeremy, “that was my unfortunate brother Albert.”

“Oh, sorry,” said Lionel. “Wot was his misfortune?”

“Besides his name, he got mislaid last Saturday, and hasn’t been seen
since,” said Jeremy, and hid his face in his hands.

Lionel went away, delicately leaving his own pocket-handkerchief on
Jeremy’s knee, and put an advertisement about Albert in the “Missing”
Column of _The People_. A good many Alberts turned up, and every night
he brought them along to Jeremy for inspection, but they were all the
wrong ones. At last Jeremy got tired of them, and told Lionel that he
had had a dream about Albert dying in foreign waters. When he heard
this Lionel borrowed his own handkerchief from Jeremy to blow his nose,
and next day he laid a Cross of Immortelles on the Albert Memorial. It
was all he could do now. There was a pleased paragraph about it in the
_Morning Post_.

But Gypsy was a little put out. He told Jeremy that he did think he
might have drowned somebody else’s brother; and then he crossed the
road and had his brown boots blacked.

Soon Lionel began to make little _Rendezvous_ with the different
Moonshiners, noting the times in his engagement book, so that before
long they knew exactly where to expect him at each half-hour through
the night.

Rose and Lily, Lupin and Nemophila, were able to slack off a bit, and
resume their dancing round the Piccadilly Cupid, which is the way the
Flower-Girls like to spend their nights. All except Violet, who still
haunted the purple shadows, and murmured fragments of song which Lionel
vainly tried to recapture over breakfast. He would turn up at the
_Rendezvous_ with little gifts--a bottle of Asthma Cure for Mrs. Green,
or a picture postcard of Mr. Matheson Lang as Shylock for Tonio. How
could they help being fond of him?

Every day brought tokens of their affection to the Winchester Mews,
N.W. 3; but Lionel never knew who it was that left plumcakes and
violets and balloons at his door; or why one morning a floral arch was
erected at the narrow entrance to the Mews with GOD BLESS OUR LIONEL
done in red and white roses set in smilax.

He only knew that even a London Policeman’s life can become a lovely
thing.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER’S FRIENDS]

12: THE PENNY PIPER


The last days of July had been so hot that the pavements steamed all
night with the memory of them. In the early mornings Ginger would
wake in a thin haze that was itself like the last thin veil between
sleep and consciousness. One Monday morning as she stretched her arms,
she half-opened her eyes upon London breathing forth its mists, and
half-opened her ears to the lost sounds of bleating sheep. Ginger at
once became six years old again.

Every Monday morning when she was six, sheep had shuffled under her
window along the misty street. And as soon as the unseen sheep had
passed with an unseen dog and an unseen shepherd, an unseen piper had
followed with a little tune upon a penny whistle. This was all a part
of being six years old, and she never wondered about it then; but
whenever she thought of it afterwards she wondered why any piper should
play his tune so early in the morning, when even the housemaids were
not yet on the doorsteps to throw him pennies. Listening to the sheep
go by, she now wondered all this over again. While she was wondering,
the last sheep bleated itself into the distance, and at the same
instant a penny whistle began piping in the mist. It was the tune she
had always, and only heard when she was six.

She lifted herself on one elbow, and saw Gypsy lifting himself on his.
They looked at each other, and she saw that he was exactly eight years
old.

“Did you ever see him?” asked Ginger in a whisper.

Gypsy shook his head. “Did you?”

Ginger shook hers. “I always longed to.”

“I wonder if there’s any way of catching him?” whispered Gypsy; and
reaching stealthily for the pillar-box, he shook out a dozen coppers.
Then he picked out the gold ones which were the fine-weather pennies
(he himself was always given brown pennies), and span one through the
haze in the direction of the tune. They heard it ring on the road, and
the tune stopped, and a moment later mended its broken bar. Gypsy sent
a second penny not quite so far, and in the pause they heard three soft
steps come their way. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth pennies fell
shorter still, and the seventh penny was so close that a form stood up
like a shadow on the mist. Even then they couldn’t see the Piper very
distinctly; but he was tall and thin, and Gypsy said he had the silver
hair of a very old man, and Ginger said he had the blue eyes of the
youngest babies.

But his gentle voice was neither young nor old as he said kindly, “What
am I to do with seven pennies, children?”

“Spend them?” suggested Gypsy.

“That’s so difficult,” said the Piper.

“Spin them?” suggested Ginger.

“Ah, that’s easy,” said the Piper. And he sat down cross-legged a
little way off on the pavement, and span one of the seven gold pennies.
While it span he sang a song that began and ended with the penny.

    “The fountain is dry,
     The fountain is dry!
     Let down your rain,
     Blue sky, blue sky,
     Or a child’s blue eye
     Must let its rain
     To fill his fountain
     Up again.”

“What a nice song,” said Ginger. “Do spin another.”

So the Piper span the second penny and sang.

    “The night will never stay,
     The night will still go by,
     Though with a million stars
     You pin it to the sky,
     Though you bind it with the blowing wind
     And buckle it with the moon,
     The night will slip away
     Like sorrow or a tune.”

The last note met the plop of the penny on the pavement.

“How do you manage it?” asked Gypsy.

“It manages itself,” said the Piper. “None of my songs lasts longer
than the spin of a coin.” He span the third penny so badly that it only
made a very little song, like this:

     “The tide in the river,
      The tide in the river,
    The tide in the river runs deep.
      I saw a shiver
      Pass over the river
    As the tide turned in its sleep.”

“Have you just come up the river?” asked Ginger.

“No,” said the Piper. “I have just come from a chickory field under
Graffham. The Sussex chicory is as blue now as it will be, and the
raspberries are ripening on the Downs.”

“Don’t!” implored Ginger, sitting up, “How could you bear to come to
town?”

“I follow the sheep,” said the Piper, and span the fourth penny. While
it turned he sang:

    “As I was going through No Man’s Land
     I saw an old man counting sand,
     I saw a woman sauntering by
     With wings on her head that could not fly,
     After that I saw a child
     Who from birth had never smiled.
     These riddles are hard to understand,
     They could only happen in No Man’s Land.”

“Have all those riddles got answers?” asked Ginger.

“I think so,” said the Piper, “but they’re harder to find in the city
than in the country. They grow best in the grass, like men and flowers.
The grass is mown now, and Sussex smells hay and hears corn.”

He twisted his fifth penny, and sang while it hummed:

    “If I had a lady
     I’d give her pretty things,
     Cowslip balls and daisy chains
     And green grass rings.
     I’d cut a fork of hazel
     To find hidden wells,
     And turn about we’d crack the nuts
     And sail the nut-shells.
     We’d love at first sight,
     And marry on the spot,
     I and the lady
     That I haven’t got.”

“Gypsy!” cried Ginger. “I can’t bear it any longer. Let’s go and live
in a hut in a wood.”

“If you want a nice hut,” said the Piper, “I know where there is one on
the banks of a Southdown river, with martins under the thatch.”

“But the Blacksmith’s Son lives in it,” wailed Ginger, “with Lizzie
Hooker.”

“It was empty,” said the Piper, “when I saw it last.”

“How long ago was that?” asked Gypsy hopefully.

“A hundred and sixty years, I think,” said the Piper, “so I ought to be
moving on, children.”

Before he rose he span his sixth penny, and while it twirled he moved
away and sang as he went:

    “I can pipe a song for that,
      And a song for this;
     You may pay me with an old straw hat,
      A crust or a kiss.
     I haven’t any use for pounds
      And little use for pence,
     While I whistle bits of rounds
      Sitting on a fence.
     You’ll learn them in a minute,
      And forget them in a day,
     And remember them in fifty years
      When I come your way.”

His voice died with the penny. And very far away they heard him once
more pipe his Monday tune.

“Oh dear,” said Ginger restlessly, “I wish he’d told us what _that_
tune was about. But I’m determined to remember every one of his other
songs to-morrow morning.” (As a matter of fact she forgot them all,
like the dreams we determine to remember in the middle of the night.)

“There’s one of the songs he forgot himself,” and Gypsy, picking up the
seventh penny and spinning it. And while it span the distant piping
seemed to turn to singing, but it was now such a long way off that I am
not sure if Gypsy and Ginger got the words right.

    “Oh, did you hear the sheep go by
      Upon a Monday morning?
     Did you hear the sheep go by
      Without a sign of warning?
     Did you hear the sheep go by?

     They bleated through the London mist
      With plaintive sounds and muffled,
     They bleated through the London mist,
      They shuffled and they scuffled
     Bleating through the London mist.

     They came from meadows fresh and green
      Which they had cropped together,
     They came from meadows fresh and green
      And they were going whither?
     They came from meadows fresh and green.”



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER RETIRE FROM BUSINESS]


When Ginger said she couldn’t bear it any more, she meant it. She had
lived in London well over two months now, and that was longer than she
had ever lived anywhere else in her life. She had a terror of falling
into grooves and never being able to climb out again. Besides, August
was upon them, and London in August is no place for anybody. So Ginger
said to Gypsy,

“We must be off.”

“How?” asked Gypsy.

“By the first train from the nearest station,” said Ginger positively.

Gypsy looked at the Trafalgar Tube and said, “Shall we go to the
Elephant and Castle, or to Edgeware Road?”

Ginger shed three tears and said, “If I don’t smell hay and hear corn
to-day, I shall die.”

Gypsy shook the pillar-box gravely. He shook it to the extent of
fivepence halfpenny.

“How did the halfpenny get in?” he said sternly. “Has somebody been
cheating?”

“No,” said Ginger, “that was given me last Sunday by a poor child
under twelve. What’s the matter with you? Children under twelve are
half-price for everything, aren’t they?”

“Did you say a poor child?” asked Gypsy.

“Yes,” said Ginger. “I gave it sixpence change. It was so extremely
under twelve, you see. It said it would come again to ask the weather
next Sunday and bring its cousins.”

“Well, it’s going to be disappointed,” said Gypsy. “Though how we’re
to take tickets to hay and corn on fivepence halfpenny, I don’t quite
know. We shall have to walk; unless we stay over to-morrow and put in a
really hard day’s work and earn our fares. What do you say to that?”

“Oh yes,” said Ginger, “and then we can give a party to-night and say
good-bye to everybody.”

So they settled down to put in a really hard day’s work. The day helped
them a lot. It was a sultry, many-minded day; it did a variety of
things with heavy heatwaves to begin with, and then it muttered in the
distance, and shed a few big drops, and slacked off for a bit; then
it rolled up a lot of dark blue clouds, and then a lot of black ones.
Mr. Morley came over from his hotel to say that it was so dark in the
Reading Room that the visitors couldn’t read, and he wanted Gypsy’s
advice about turning on the electric light. Gypsy, half in and half out
of his door, looked at the sky and said:

“I think you’d better turn it on.”

Mr. Morley thanked him, and tipped him half-a-crown (they do it
handsomely at Morley’s).

“Can I have it in pennies?” asked Gypsy.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Morley. He counted thirty pennies into Gypsy’s
hand, and crossed the road.

Then quite suddenly a blue cloud hit a black one, and Gypsy leapt out
of his door as far as he could go, and the hail came down like peas and
rattled in a box by the theatre-men. So Gypsy called “Hi! hi!” very
loudly, and Mr. Morley, who had just got under the portico, came out
and crossed the road again.

“Yes?” said Mr. Morley.

“I _know_ you’d better turn it on,” said Gypsy.

“Thank you very much,” said Mr. Morley, and gave Gypsy five shillings.

“Can I have it in pennies?” shouted Gypsy. (He had to shout because of
the thunder.)

“Certainly,” shouted Mr. Morley, turning up his coat-collar a little
too late, because ribbons of rain were already running down his neck
from the guttering round his top hat. It took him a long time to count
sixty pennies into Gypsy’s hands, which got very full; then Mr. Morley
wasn’t certain he’d given him enough, and thought they’d better count
them again to make sure. So they did, holding the pennies in their
mouths or under their armpits, or between their knees, as they got
them counted; and then Gypsy lifted his arm by mistake, to wipe the
rain out of his eyes, and dropped a shillingsworth. They rolled and
splashed about Trafalgar Square, which could now be paddled in. Gypsy
wasn’t allowed to leave his post, so Mr. Morley knelt down on his
beautifully-pressed trousers, and crawled about the Square, finding the
shilling one by one. It took him some time, because he could hardly
see for the water tumbling off his beautifully-ironed silk hat, and for
the lightning making him start and say “Oh!” just as he was about to
pick a penny up. But at last he brought them all back to Gypsy.

“So sorry to have troubled you,” said Gypsy.

“Not at all,” said Mr. Morley, because the Morley Hotel manners are
faultless. Then he went back to the Hotel, and changed his boots, and
turned on the light in the Reading-Room. And then the sun came out.

So he had to cross the Square again, and he found Ginger outside the
Weatherhouse looking as nice as mixed ice-cream in a lovely summer
smock.

“What delightful weather,” said Ginger. “Why have you got the Hotel
lights on?”

“Would you turn them out if you were I?” asked Mr. Morley, for his
grammar was as faultless as his manners.

“I would indeed,” said Ginger sunnily; “seldom have I seen so blue a
sky.”

Mr. Morley tipped her handsomely (the information apart, her smile was
worth it), lifted his hat to her, and fled.

“How fast he’s going,” said Gypsy, from the very back of the
Weatherhouse. “What did he give you, darling?”

“A half-sovereign!” gasped Ginger. “A real old-fashioned
half-sovereign!”

“No wonder he’s running,” said Gypsy. “But we must get it changed
somehow.”

“Oh, must we?” pleaded Ginger.

“Think of the Pillar-Box,” said Ginger firmly. So they bought an
evening newspaper which they didn’t want, and told the Evening Newsboy
to let the children know there’d be a party in the Square during the
small hours. Then they put the pennies in the Pillar-Box. They had had
several other customers that day, and the Pound was nearly reached.

At ten minutes to seven an old lady in a black bonnet and corkscrew
curls stepped up to ask the weather.

“Set fair, madam,” said Ginger.

“How much will that be?” said the old lady.

“One penny, madam,” said Ginger.

The old lady paid her penny. She was the Weatherhouse’s last customer.
When they posted her penny the Pillar-Box burst.

     “Hurrah!” }         { Gypsy.
               }  cried  {
     “Hurrah!” }         { Ginger.

The theatre crowd that evening found the Weatherhouse shutters up, and
a placard outside saying:

     THESE PREMISES ARE CLOSED.
     GYPSY AND GINGER ARE RETIRING
     FROM BUSINESS.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER GIVE A PARTY]


People who have only seen London on Coronation Day, or Lord Mayor’s
Show Day, or on the day when the Ambassador of Calamiane is given the
Freedom of the City, do not really know of what she is capable in the
way of festival. All these occasions are foreseen and dress-rehearsed.
The costume is provided in advance, and it is trusted that the spirit,
as well as the body, may inhabit it on the day. But when the time comes
it is usually about some business of its own; for in spite of the
newspapers the spirit is not the body’s house-dog. It doesn’t come when
it’s whistled for. Its breed is tameless.

But when it springs out of its wilds it does in an hour what Committees
cannot do in six months. Only those who saw Trafalgar Square on the
night of Gypsy and Ginger’s party know what the spirit of London can do
in an hour.

The Evening Newsboy spread the rumour of the party with the swiftness
and ubiquity of evening news. He had the newsboy’s art of subdividing
a single rumour into a flight of swallows. Before midnight every slum
in the city knew there was to be a party amongst the fountains of
Trafalgar Square.

Gypsy and Ginger sat on the floor of the Weatherhouse making staircases
of their two-hundred-and-forty pennies, and consulted how to spend them
to the best advantage. They had quite forgotten their intention of
spending them on railway tickets to Sussex.

“Which do you think the children would like best?” asked Gypsy.
“Presents or supper?”

“Presents _and_ supper,” said Ginger.

“It won’t run to both, darling. The guests will come in their
thousands.”

“But think of a whole pound.”

“I know, but all the same,” said Gypsy. He was really the practical one
of the two. “If we decided on presents, a lot could be done with beads
and marbles.”

“If they had supper, we could give them farthing buns,” said Ginger.
“For a pound you can get a thousand farthing buns, more or less, I’m
never sure which. But if there are thousands of children--.”

“What about a Conjuror?” suggested Gypsy. “You ought to be able to buy
quite a good Conjuror for a pound?”

“No,” said Ginger, “we can be our own conjurors. And I want the
children to have something that will really go round without giving
out, and I’ve thought of what it is.”

“Well?” said Gypsy.

“Sherbert,” said Ginger. “Packets and packets of it. In the fountains.”

“In one fountain,” said Gypsy, catching on with enthusiasm, “and
lemonade crystals in the other.”

They went out to spend their pound. While they were absent, the
Piccadilly Flower-Girls came and got to work. In a few minutes the
Square was a garden of roses. Roses red and white, yellow and pink,
garlanded the stone balustrades opposite the National Gallery and
wreathed the basins of the fountains; arches of roses bloomed up the
steps; the Weatherhouse was smothered in Crimson Ramblers; Dorothy
Perkins climbed from the foot of the Nelson Column to the top of
Nelson’s head, the base was mounded deep in moss, and every lion
crouched in a temple of standards. Their work was barely accomplished
when Mrs. Green arrived buried in balloons. They were gas balloons of
every colour, and each was anchored with a fairy lamp, so that when
she let them go they hung in chains and patterns of light fifteen feet
in air. The other Moonlighters were now appearing in full force. The
Punch-and-Judy Man set up his theatre between the fountains, Tonio’s
striped and painted Hokey-Pokey booth was established in one corner,
the Strawberry Girl had her great fruit-baskets in another. Jeremy,
with an assortment of his brightest wares, turned the Weatherhouse
into a Penny Toyshop. The Organ-Man and his barrel-organ took the
middle of the Square, where there was plenty of room for dancing. The
Muffin-and-Crumpet Man walked round and round and round ringing his
bell. They told him that for once he was out of season, but the Night
Watchman said that the moon was blue to-night, so that anything could
happen for once.

By the time Gypsy and Ginger returned, laden with packets of Sherbert
and Lemonade Powder, the party was ready.

“Oh!” cried Ginger.

She dropped her parcels and dashed from attraction to attraction; flew
one of Jeremy’s windmills round the Square, tasted a strawberry, ate
half a hokey-pokey, rang the muffin-bell in Toby’s ear, stuck a rose in
her smock, and seizing Gypsy’s hands danced him three times round the
barrel-organ.

Then they all turned their attention to the fountains, and just as
the sherbert got really fizzing the Evening Newsboy appeared with the
children.

Not many parties begin in full swing, but Gypsy’s and Ginger’s did. The
moment the children of London saw Trafalgar Square, a dream of balloons
and roses under the blue moon, they began to laugh; and for two hours,
whether they were dancing to the organ music as only London Children
can dance: or watching Punch thwack Judy as only Punch can thwack: or
eating crumpets, and strawberries, and free ice-creams: or besieging
the Weatherhouse for Jeremy’s free toys, or lying on their stomachs
over the fountains with their faces in the sherbert: or playing
Touch-Stone with Lily, Rose and Jessamine around the Column: they never
stopped laughing. When the Taxi-Man appeared astride of Snow-Flame, and
put him through his loveliest circus-tricks below the fairy lights,
their laughter was louder than ever. And when Gypsy, inspired by the
sound of it, painted this sign in luminuous paint on the National
Gallery:

     THERE IS NO TRUTH IN THE RUMOUR
     THAT CHILDREN’S PARTIES WILL BE HELD IN
     TRAFALGAR SQUARE ONCE A WEEK

their laughter was so loud that it was heard from Land’s End to John o’
Groats. It was so loud that it was heard by the Policeman in the Strand.

He blew his whistle.

In a trice the London Police were on the alert.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER MOVE ON]


When the Policeman on the Strand Beat blew his whistle, it was heard
by every Policeman on every confine of London. But it was not heard in
Trafalgar Square, because the party was by this time at its height. And
while the Moonshiners sang and danced and rioted with the children,
the policemen were answering the summons from Ealing to Barking, and
from Crowdon to Crouch End. Through the silent streets they streamed
in hundreds, like blue fire streaming noiselessly around a Christmas
Pudding. From all points of the compass they converged on Trafalgar
Square.

Before they knew it, the Moonshiners were encircled.

It was the Night Watchman who gave the alarm, too late. Even he had
been caught napping for once. He had been competing at Catherine Wheels
with the Evening Newsboy when he ought to have been keeping an eye on
the night. But now, as the foe advanced in massed formation through
Pall Mall and Whitehall, the Strand and St. Martin’s Lane, he scented
them like a hound and cried: “The Police!”

Dead silence fell upon Trafalgar Square. Only the ex-Professor made
any demonstration, and that was a mute one. Meekly, yet carelessly, he
bowed to right and left.

“What are we going to do?” whispered Ginger.

The Moonshiners drew together and consulted. The Taxi-Man was for
defying the foe, but Ginger said,

“Think of the children.”

The Piccadilly Flower-Girls were for diddling the foe, but

“There aren’t enough of you,” said Gypsy.

“P’raps if we kep as still as mice,” said Rags, “they’d jest go away
and not notice.”

But the Night Watchman looked at the thousands of children and roses
and balloons, and at the luminous sign on the National Gallery, and
said,

“Don’t count on it. The London Police have eyes like lynxes.”

“All right,” said Gypsy cheerfully.

We’re discovered. We’re trapped. But _you_ shan’t suffer--it’s all me
and Ginger” (he couldn’t be bothered with grammar at the moment), “and
I’m going to tell them so. Come along, darling.”

And passing his arm around Ginger’s waist he leaped with her to the
head of the Lion who looks towards St. James’s, and stood exposed to
the gaze of the London Police.

The Strand Policeman advanced, and pointed with his truncheon to the
legend on the National Gallery.

Gypsy gazed steadily down into his questioning eyes, and prepared to
confess. As he opened his lips, the Strand Policeman saw a vision of
rapid promotion, and Gypsy saw another of Six Months’ Hard.

But before he had uttered the first word of his confession, a sharp
command rang out upon the night.

“Move on!” it said.

It was the voice of Lionel. And out of the mossy bank of the Nelson
Column, the form of Lionel rose. Gypsy and Ginger nearly fell off the
Lion.

“Move on!” said Lionel sternly.

“Where to?” whispered Ginger.

“Where would you like to?” whispered Lionel.

“S-S-Sussex!” stammered Ginger.

“Get _down_ orf that Lion!” thundered Lionel, and he shook his
truncheon truculently at Gypsy and Ginger. “Can’t you see you’re
obstructing traffic?” He cast an eye over the crowd of children and
Moonshiners. “Get along ’ome,” he said to them briefly. “Move on!” he
said to Gypsy and Ginger, still more briefly.

This time Gypsy and Ginger quite fell off the Lion. With Lionel at
their backs they moved on. A way melted for them like magic through the
serried ranks of the London Police. The Police made no protest. One of
them had the matter well in hand; they heard from his lips the sacred
formula which is the motor power of the Police and the Solar Systems.

“Move on!” said Lionel at punctuated intervals. “Move on! Move on!”

Gypsy and Ginger moved on, as in a dream. They did not see the London
Arabs shinning off to their respective slums; they did not see the
London Police resume their respective beats, or the People of the
London Streets return to their respective kerbs and cornerstones. With
Lionel at their backs, they kept moving on. But it rather seemed as
though it was the world, not they, that moved.

The silver water of the Thames and the black towers of Parliament went
by them like visions. They saw the fiery smoke of Victorian trains
stream by like dragon’s breath. “Move on!” said Lionel. They heard the
dogs of Hackbridge bay at the moon, and smelt the Mitcham Lavender. Box
Hill rose like a dark wave on their left, and sank away as Leith Hill
rose like another on their right. “Move on!” said Lionel. The woods of
Surrey dissolved into the woods of Sussex. A river sleeping between
pink willow herb and purple loosestrife curled before them. “Move on!”
said Lionel. A spur of the Downs rolled up like a green ball. A deep
chalk road, cut like the Milky Way in the side of the hill, opened a
channel for their feet. “Move on!” said Lionel.

Gypsy and Ginger moved on. At the top of the hill Ginger sat down all
of a sudden.

“Lionel,” said she, “I can’t move another step.”

But Lionel did not answer. When they turned their heads he was not
there. He had just completed the longest move on the Police Records,
and was now speeding back to Scotland Yard to throw up his Roving
Commission.



[Illustration: GYPSY AND GINGER MOVE IN]


Gypsy and Ginger sat on the top of the Downs till daybreak. As the sun
came up, Ginger uttered a cry.

“Oh!” said Ginger. “Look!”

Gypsy looked, and saw that they were on the end of one chain of hills
that faced the end of another chain of hills. In the valley that lay
between, a river ran very full and level among green grass and gold
buttercups.

“There’s such a lot to look at,” said Gypsy. “Particularly what?”

“My cottage!” said Ginger, and rolled down the hill. Gypsy rolled after
her. But she picked herself up first, shook her head, and was along
the road like a hare. He tracked her to the cottage by the things
that fell out of her pockets, peppermints and pencils and penknives
and tangles of string. Just as Gypsy arrived at the cottage Ginger was
coming away from it. She looked extremely excited.

“Gypsy,” she said, “it’s empty! The Blacksmith’s Son isn’t there.” (She
had told him all about the Blacksmith’s Son on the wedding-day.) “I’m
going to see the Blacksmith.”

They found the Blacksmith alone at work in the Forge. He looked round
at them, and said to Ginger, “What d’ye want, missy?” “Where’s your
son?” asked Ginger. “Emigrated,” said the Blacksmith. “When?” asked
Ginger. “Day arter you was here,” said the Blacksmith. “Where’s Lizzie
Hooker?” asked Ginger. “Emigrated,” said the Blacksmith. “When?” asked
Ginger. “Day arter that,” said the Blacksmith. “What happened to them?”
asked Ginger. “Married. Ship-Ranch. Canada,” said the Blacksmith.
“Don’t they want to live in the cottage?” asked Ginger. “No,” said the
Blacksmith. “Then,” said Ginger, “I and Gypsy want to, please.”

The Blacksmith scratched his chin with his hammer. “I’m sorry, missy,”
said the Blacksmith, “but for three hundred years, ever since that
cottage were built, it’s been kept in the family for one of the
Blacksmith’s sons.”

“Have you any more sons?” asked Gypsy.

“None,” said the Blacksmith.

“Will that one ever come back?” asked Gypsy.

“Never,” said the Blacksmith.

“Adopt me!” said Gypsy.

The Blacksmith looked at Ginger, and adopted Gypsy. As soon as he’d
done it, he gave them the key of the cottage and got on with his job.

Gypsy and Ginger went to the shop and bought a pound of bulls’ eyes
and a bottle of gingerbeer; and then they walked back to the cottage
and moved in.

                               THE END.





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