Three of Them III. Speculations
- in The Strand Magazine (july 1918 [UK]) 3 ill. by L. Hocknell
- in Everybody's Magazine (september 1918 [US]) no ill.
- in Three of Them (1918, George H. Doran Co. [US])
- in Danger! and Other Stories (1918-1929)
- in Three of Them (2 november 1923, John Murray [UK]) 3 photos on dustjacket
Three of Them III. Speculations
The three children were sitting together in a bunch upon the rug in the gloaming. Baby was talking, so Daddy behind his newspaper pricked up his ears, for the young lady was silent as a rule, and every glimpse of her little mind was of interest. She was nursing the disreputable little downy quilt which she called Wriggly and much preferred to any of her dolls.
"I wonder if they will let Wriggly into heaven," she said.
The boys laughed. They generally laughed at what Baby said.
"If they won't I won't go in, either," she added.
"Nor me, neither, if they don't let in my Teddy-bear," said Dimples.
"I'll tell them it is a nice, clean, blue Wriggly," said Baby. "I love my Wriggly." She cooed over it and hugged it.
"What about that, Daddy?" asked Laddie, in his earnest fashion. "Are there toys in heaven, do you think?"
"Of course there are. Everything that can make children happy."
"As many toys as in Hamley's shop?" asked Dimples.
"More," said Daddy, stoutly.
"Oo!" from all three.
"Daddy, dear," said Laddie, "I've been wondering about the deluge."
"Yes, dear. What was it?"
"Well, the story about the Ark. All those animals were in the Ark, just two of each, for forty days. Wasn't that so?"
"That is the story."
"Well then, what did the carnivorous animals eat?"
One should be honest with children and not put them off with ridiculous explanations. Their questions about such matters are generally much more sensible than their parents' replies.
"Well, dear," said Daddy, weighing his words, "these stories are very, very old. The Jews put them in the Bible, but they got them from the people in Babylon, and the people in Babylon probably got them from some one else away back in the beginning of things. If a story gets passed down like that, one person adds a little and another adds a little, and so you never get things quite as they happened. The Jews put it in the Bible exactly as they heard it, but it had been going about for thousands of years before then."
"So it was not true?"
"Yes, I think it was true. I think there was a great flood, and I think that some people did escape, and that they saved their beasts, just as we should try to save Nigger and the Monkstown cocks and hens if we were flooded out. Then they were able to start again when the waters went down, and they were naturally very grateful to God for their escape."
"What did the people who didn't escape think about it?"
"Well, we can't tell that."
"They wouldn't be very grateful, would they?"
"Their time was come," said Daddy, who was a bit of a Fatalist. "I expect it was the best thing."
"It was jolly hard luck on Noah being swallowed by a fish after all his trouble," said Dimples.
"Silly ass! It was Jonah that was swallowed. Was it a whale, Daddy?"
"A whale! Why, a whale couldn't swallow a herring!"
"A shark, then?"
"Well, there again you have an old story which has got twisted and turned a good deal. No doubt he was a holy man who had some great escape at sea, and then the sailors and others who admired him invented this wonder."
"Daddy," said Dimples, suddenly, "should we do just the same as Jesus did?"
"Yes, dear; He was the noblest Person that ever lived."
"Well, did Jesus lie down every day from twelve to one?"
"I don't know that He did."
"Well, then, I won't lie down from twelve to one."
"If Jesus had been a growing boy and had been ordered to lie down by His Mumty and the Doctor, I am sure He would have done so."
"Did He take malt extract?"
"He did what He was told, my son I am sure of that. He was a good man, so He must have been a good boy perfect in all He did."
"Baby saw God yesterday," remarked Laddie, casually.
Daddy dropped his paper.
"Yes, we made up our mind we would all lie on our backs and stare at the sky until we saw God. So we put the big rug on the lawn and then we all lay down side by side, and stared and stared. I saw nothing, and Dimples saw nothing, but Baby says she saw God."
Baby nodded in her wise way.
"I saw Him," she said.
"What was He like, then?"
"Oh, just God."
She would say no more, but hugged her Wriggly The Lady had entered and listened with some trepidation to the frank audacity of the children's views. Yet the very essence of faith was in that audacity. It was all so unquestionably real.
"Which is strongest, Daddy, God or the Devil?" It was Laddie who was speculating now.
"Why, God rules everything of course."
"Then why doesn't He kill the Devil?"
"And scalp him?" added Dimples.
"That would stop all trouble, wouldn't it, Daddy?"
Poor Daddy was rather floored. The Lady came to his help.
"If everything was good and easy in this world, then there would be nothing to fight against, and so, Laddie, our characters would never improve."
"It would be like a football match with all the players on one side," said Daddy.
"If there was nothing bad, then nothing would be good, for you would have nothing to compare by," added the Lady.
"Well, then," said Laddie, with the remorseless logic of childhood, "if that is so, then the Devil is very useful; so he can't be so very bad, after all."
"Well, I don't see that," Daddy answered. "Our Army can only show how brave it is by fighting the German Emperor, but that does not prove that the German Emperor is a very nice person, does it now?
"Besides," Daddy continued, improving the occasion, "you must not think of the Devil as a person. You must think of all the mean things one could do, and all the dirty things, and all the cruel things, and that is really the Devil you are fighting against. You couldn't call them useful, could you?"
The children thought over this for a little.
"Daddy," said Laddie, "have you ever seen God?"
"No, my boy. But I see His works. I expect that is as near as we can get in this world. Look at all the stars at night, and think of the Power that made them and keeps each in its proper place."
"He couldn't keep the shooting stars in their proper place," said Dimples.
"I expect He meant them to shoot," said Laddie.
"Suppose they all shot, what jolly nights we should have!" cried Dimples.
"Yes," said Laddie; "but after one night they would all have gone, and a nice thing then!"
"Well, there's always the moon," remarked Dimples. "But, Daddy, is it true that God listens to all we say?"
"I don't know about that," Daddy answered, cautiously. You never know into what trap those quick little wits may lead you. The Lady was more rash, or more orthodox.
"Yes, dear, He does hear all you say."
"Is He listenin' now?"
"Well, I call it vewy rude of Him!"
Daddy smiled, and the Lady gasped.
"It isn't rude," said Laddie. "It is His duty, and He has to notice what you are doing and saying. Daddy, did you ever see a fairy?"
"I saw one once."
Laddie is the very soul of truth, quite painfully truthful in details, so that his quiet remark caused attention.
"Tell us about it, dear."
He described it with as little emotion as if it were a Persian cat. Perhaps his perfect faith had indeed opened something to his vision.
"It was in the day nursery. There was a stool by the window. The fairy jumped on the stool and then down, and went across the room."
"What was it dressed like?"
"All in grey, with a long cloak. It was about as big as Baby's doll. I could not see its arms, for they were under the cloak."
"Did he look at you?"
"No, he was sideways, and I never really saw his face. He had a little cap. That's the only fairy I ever saw. Of course, there was Father Christmas, if you call him a fairy."
"Daddy, was Father Christmas killed in the war?"
"Because he has never come since the war began. I expect he is fightin' the Jarmans." It was Dimples who was talking.
"Last time he came," said Laddie, "Daddy said one of his reindeers had hurt its leg in the ruts of the Monkstown Lane. Perhaps that's why he never comes."
"He'll come all right after the war," said Daddy, "and he'll be redder and whiter and jollier than ever." Then Daddy clouded suddenly, for he thought of all those who would be missing when Father Christmas came again. Ten loved ones were dead from that one household. The Lady put out her hand, for she always knew what Daddy was thinking.
"They will be there in spirit, dear."
"Yes, and the joiliest of the lot," said Daddy, stoutly. "We'll have our Father Christmas back and all will be well in England."
"But what do they do in India?" asked Laddie. "Why, what's wrong with them?"
"How do the sledge and the reindeer get across the sea? All the parcels must get wet."
"Yes, dear, there have been several complaints," said Daddy, gravely. "Halloa, here's Frances! Time's up! Off to bed!"
They got up resignedly, for they were really very good children. "Say your prayers here before you go," said the Lady. The three little figures all knelt on the rug, Baby still cuddling her Wriggly.
"You pray, Laddie, and the rest can join in."
"God bless every one I love," said the high, clear child-voice. "And make me a good boy, and thank You so much for all the blessings of to-day. And please take care of Alleyne, who is fighting the Germans, and Uncle Cosmo, who is fighting the Germans, and Uncle Woodie, who is fighting the Germans, and all the others who are fighting the Germans, and the men on the ships on the sea, and Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Pat, and don't ever let Daddy and Mumty die. That's all."
"And please send plenty sugar for the poor people," said Baby, in her unexpected way.
"And a little petrol for Daddy," said Dimples.
"Amen!" said Daddy. And the little figures rose for the good-night kiss.