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The Grand Tour of the Gardens




You must see for yourselves that it will be difficult to follow


our adventures unless you are familiar with the Kensington


Gardens, as they now became known to David. They are in London,


where the King lives, and you go to them every day unless you are


looking decidedly flushed, but no one has ever been in the whole


of the Gardens, because it is so soon time to turn back. The


reason it is soon time to turn back is that you sleep from twelve


to one. If your mother was not so sure that you sleep from


twelve to one, you could most likely see the whole of them.




The Gardens are bounded on one side by a never-ending line of


omnibuses, over which Irene has such authority that if she holds


up her finger to any one of them it stops immediately. She then


crosses with you in safety to the other side. There are more


gates to the Gardens than one gate, but that is the one you go in


at, and before you go in you speak to the lady with the balloons,


who sits just outside. This is as near to being inside as she


may venture, because, if she were to let go her hold of the


railings for one moment, the balloons would lift her up, and she


would be flown away. She sits very squat, for the balloons are


always tugging at her, and the strain has given her quite a red


face. Once she was a new one, because the old one had let go, and


David was very sorry for the old one, but as she did let go, he


wished he had been there to see.




The Gardens are a tremendous big place, with millions and


hundreds of trees, and first you come to the Figs, but you scorn


to loiter there, for the Figs is the resort of superior little


persons, who are forbidden to mix with the commonalty, and is so


named, according to legend, because they dress in full fig.


These dainty ones are themselves contemptuously called Figs by


David and other heroes, and you have a key to the manners and


customs of this dandiacal section of the Gardens when I tell you


that cricket is called crickets here. Occasionally a rebel Fig


climbs over the fence into the world, and such a one was Miss


Mabel Grey, of whom I shall tell you when we come to Miss Mabel


Grey's gate. She was the only really celebrated Fig.




We are now in the Broad Walk, and it is as much bigger than the


other walks as your father is bigger than you. David wondered if


it began little, and grew and grew, till it was quite grown up,


and whether the other walks are its babies, and he drew a


picture, which diverted him very much, of the Broad Walk giving a


tiny walk an airing in a perambulator. In the Broad Walk you


meet all the people who are worth knowing, and there is usually a


grown-up with them to prevent their going on the damp grass, and


to make them stand disgraced at the corner of a seat if they have


been mad-dog or Mary-Annish. To be Mary-Annish is to behave like


a girl, whimpering because nurse won't carry you, or simpering


with your thumb in your mouth, and it is a hateful quality, but


to be mad- dog is to kick out at everything, and there is some


satisfaction in that.




If I were to point out all the notable places as we pass up the


Broad Walk, it would be time to turn back before we reach them,


and I simply wave my stick at Cecco's Tree, that memorable spot


where a boy called Cecco lost his penny, and, looking for it,


found twopence. There has been a good deal of excavation going


on there ever since. Farther up the walk is the little wooden


house in which Marmaduke Perry hid. There is no more awful story


of the Gardens by day than this of Marmaduke Perry, who had been


Mary- Annish three days in succession, and was sentenced to


appear in the Broad Walk dressed in his sister's clothes. He hid


in the little wooden house, and refused to emerge until they


brought him knickerbockers with pockets.




You now try to go to the Round Pond, but nurses hate it, because


they are not really manly, and they make you look the other way,


at the Big Penny and the Baby's Palace. She was the most


celebrated baby of the Gardens, and lived in the palace all


alone, with ever so many dolls, so people rang the bell, and up


she got out of her bed, though it was past six o'clock, and she


lighted a candle and opened the door in her nighty, and then they


all cried with great rejoicings, "Hail, Queen of England!" What


puzzled David most was how she knew where the matches were kept.


The Big Penny is a statue about her.




Next we come to the Hump, which is the part of the Broad Walk


where all the big races are run, and even though you had no


intention of running you do run when you come to the Hump, it is


such a fascinating, slide-down kind of place. Often you stop


when you have run about half-way down it, and then you are lost,


but there is another little wooden house near here, called the


Lost House, and so you tell the man that you are lost and then he


finds you. It is glorious fun racing down the Hump, but you


can't do it on windy days because then you are not there, but the


fallen leaves do it instead of you. There is almost nothing that


has such a keen sense of fun as a fallen leaf.




From the Hump we can see the gate that is called after Miss Mabel


Grey, the Fig I promised to tell you about. There were always


two nurses with her, or else one mother and one nurse, and for a


long time she was a pattern-child who always coughed off the


table and said, "How do you do?" to the other Figs, and the only


game she played at was flinging a ball gracefully and letting the


nurse bring it back to her. Then one day she tired of it all and


went mad-dog, and, first, to show that she as really was mad-dog,


she unloosened both her boot-laces and put out her tongue east,


west, north, and south. She then flung her sash into a puddle


and danced on it till dirty water was squirted over her frock,


after which she climbed the fence and had a series of incredible


adventures, one of the least of which was that she kicked off


both her boots. At last she came to the gate that is now called


after her, out of which she ran into streets David and I have


never been in though we have heard them roaring, and still she


ran on and would never again have been heard of had not her


mother jumped into a bus and thus overtaken her. It all


happened, I should say, long ago, and this is not the Mabel Grey


whom David knows.




Returning up the Broad Walk we have on our right the Baby Walk,


which is so full of perambulators that you could cross from side


to side stepping on babies, but the nurses won't let you do it.


From this walk a passage called Bunting's Thumb, because it is


that length, leads into Picnic Street, where there are real


kettles, and chestnut-blossom falls into your mug as you are


drinking. Quite common children picnic here also, and the


blossom falls into their mugs just the same.




Next comes St. Govor's Well, which was full of water when Malcolm


the Bold fell into it. He was his mother's favourite, and he let


her put her arm round his neck in public because she was a widow,


but he was also partial to adventures and liked to play with a


chimney-sweep who had killed a good many bears. The sweep's name


was Sooty, and one day when they were playing near the well,


Malcolm fell in and would have been drowned had not Sooty dived


in and rescued him, and the water had washed Sooty clean and he


now stood revealed as Malcolm's long-lost father. So Malcolm


would not let his mother put her arm round his neck any more.




Between the well and the Round Pond are the cricket-pitches, and


frequently the choosing of sides exhausts so much time that there


is scarcely any cricket. Everybody wants to bat first, and as


soon as he is out he bowls unless you are the better wrestler,


and while you are wrestling with him the fielders have scattered


to play at something else. The Gardens are noted for two kinds


of cricket: boy cricket, which is real cricket with a bat, and


girl cricket, which is with a racquet and the governess. Girls


can't really play cricket, and when you are watching their futile


efforts you make funny sounds at them. Nevertheless, there was a


very disagreeable incident one day when some forward girls


challenged David's team, and a disturbing creature called Angela


Clare sent down so many yorkers that--However, instead of telling


you the result of that regrettable match I shall pass on


hurriedly to the Round Pond, which is the wheel that keeps all


the Gardens going.




It is round because it is in the very middle of the Gardens, and


when you are come to it you never want to go any farther. You


can't be good all the time at the Round Pond, however much you


try. You can be good in the Broad Walk all the time, but not at


the Round Pond, and the reason is that you forget, and, when you


remember, you are so wet that you may as well be wetter. There


are men who sail boats on the Round Pond, such big boats that


they bring them in barrows and sometimes in perambulators, and


then the baby has to walk. The bow-legged children in the


Gardens are these who had to walk too soon because their father


needed the perambulator.




You always want to have a yacht to sail on the Round Pond, and in


the end your uncle gives you one; and to carry it to the Pond the


first day is splendid, also to talk about it to boys who have no


uncle is splendid, but soon you like to leave it at home. For


the sweetest craft that slips her moorings in the Round Pond is


what is called a stick-boat, because she is rather like a stick


until she is in the water and you are holding the string. Then


as you walk round, pulling her, you see little men running about


her deck, and sails rise magically and catch the breeze, and you


put in on dirty nights at snug harbours which are unknown to the


lordly yachts. Night passes in a twink, and again your rakish


craft noses for the wind, whales spout, you glide over buried


cities, and have brushes with pirates and cast anchor on coral


isles. You are a solitary boy while all this is taking place,


for two boys together cannot adventure far upon the Round Pond,


and though you may talk to yourself throughout the voyage, giving


orders and executing them with dispatch, you know not, when it is


time to go home, where you have been or what swelled your sails;


your treasure-trove is all locked away in your hold, so to speak,


which will be opened, perhaps, by another little boy many years


afterward.




But those yachts have nothing in their hold. Does anyone return


to this haunt of his youth because of the yachts that used to


sail it? Oh, no. It is the stick-boat that is freighted with


memories. The yachts are toys, their owner a fresh-water


mariner, they can cross and recross a pond only while the stick-


boat goes to sea. You yachtsmen with your wands, who think we


are all there to gaze on you, your ships are only accidents of


this place, and were they all to be boarded and sunk by the ducks


the real business of the Round Pond would be carried on as usual.




Paths from everywhere crowd like children to the pond. Some of


them are ordinary paths, which have a rail on each side, and are


made by men with their coats off, but others are vagrants, wide


at one spot and at another so narrow that you can stand astride


them. They are called Paths that have Made Themselves, and David


did wish he could see them doing it. But, like all the most


wonderful things that happen in the Gardens, it is done, we


concluded, at night after the gates are closed. We have also


decided that the paths make themselves because it is their only


chance of getting to the Round Pond.




One of these gypsy paths comes from the place where the sheep get


their hair cut. When David shed his curls at the hair-dresser's,


I am told, he said good-bye to them without a tremor, though Mary


has never been quite the same bright creature since, so he


despises the sheep as they run from their shearer and calls out


tauntingly, "Cowardy, cowardy custard!" But when the man grips


them between his legs David shakes a fist at him for using such


big scissors. Another startling moment is when the man turns


back the grimy wool from the sheeps' shoulders and they look


suddenly like ladies in the stalls of a theatre. The sheep are


so frightened by the shearing that it makes them quite white and


thin, and as soon as they are set free they begin to nibble the


grass at once, quite anxiously, as if they feared that they would


never be worth eating. David wonders whether they know each


other, now that they are so different, and if it makes them fight


with the wrong ones. They are great fighters, and thus so unlike


country sheep that every year they give Porthos a shock. He can


make a field of country sheep fly by merely announcing his


approach, but these town sheep come toward him with no promise of


gentle entertainment, and then a light from last year breaks upon


Porthos. He cannot with dignity retreat, but he stops and looks


about him as if lost in admiration of the scenery, and presently


he strolls away with a fine indifference and a glint at me from


the corner of his eye.




The Serpentine begins near here. It is a lovely lake, and there


is a drowned forest at the bottom of it. If you peer over the


edge you can see the trees all growing upside down, and they say


that at night there are also drowned stars in it. If so, Peter


Pan sees them when he is sailing across the lake in the Thrush's


Nest. A small part only of the Serpentine is in the Gardens, for


soon it passes beneath a bridge to far away where the island is


on which all the birds are born that become baby boys and girls.


No one who is human, except Peter Pan (and he is only half


human), can land on the island, but you may write what you want


(boy or girl, dark or fair) on a piece of paper, and then twist


it into the shape of a boat and slip it into the water, and it


reaches Peter Pan's island after dark.




We are on the way home now, though, of course, it is all pretence


that we can go to so many of the places in one day. I should


have had to be carrying David long ago and resting on every seat


like old Mr. Salford. That was what we called him, because he


always talked to us of a lovely place called Salford where he had


been born. He was a crab-apple of an old gentleman who wandered


all day in the Gardens from seat to seat trying to fall in with


somebody who was acquainted with the town of Salford, and when we


had known him for a year or more we actually did meet another


aged solitary who had once spent Saturday to Monday in Salford.


He was meek and timid and carried his address inside his hat, and


whatever part of London he was in search of he always went to the


General Post-office first as a starting-point. Him we carried in


triumph to our other friend, with the story of that Saturday to


Monday, and never shall I forget the gloating joy with which Mr.


Salford leapt at him. They have been cronies ever since, and I


notice that Mr. Salford, who naturally does most of the talking,


keeps tight grip of the other old man's coat.




The two last places before you come to our gate are the Dog's


Cemetery and the chaffinch's nest, but we pretend not to know


what the Dog's Cemetery is, as Porthos is always with us. The


nest is very sad. It is quite white, and the way we found it was


wonderful. We were having another look among the bushes for


David's lost worsted ball, and instead of the ball we found a


lovely nest made of the worsted, and containing four eggs, with


scratches on them very like David's handwriting, so we think they


must have been the mother's love-letters to the little ones


inside. Every day we were in the Gardens we paid a call at the


nest, taking care that no cruel boy should see us, and we dropped


crumbs, and soon the bird knew us as friends, and sat in the nest


looking at us kindly with her shoulders hunched up. But one day


when we went, there were only two eggs in the nest, and the next


time there were none. The saddest part of it was that the poor


little chaffinch fluttered about the bushes, looking so


reproachfully at us that we knew she thought we had done it, and


though David tried to explain to her, it was so long since he had


spoken the bird language that I fear she did not understand. He


and I left the Gardens that day with our knuckles in our eyes.