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An extraordinary English nanny blows in on the East Wind with her parrot-headed umbrella and magic carpet bag and introduces her charges, Jane and Michael, to some delightful people and experiences.
From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. This classic series tells the story of the world's most beloved nanny, who brings enchantment and excitement with her everywhere she goes. Featuring the charming original art by Mary Shepard, these new editions are sure to delight readers of all ages.
First published 1934
The Library of Congress has cataloged an earlier edition as follows:
Travers, P. L., 1899–1996.
Mary Poppins/P. L. Travers; illustrated by Mary Shepard.
Summary: An extraordinary English nanny blows in on the East Wind
with her parrot-headed umbrella and magic carpet bag and introduces her
charges, Jane and Michael, to some delightful people and experiences.
[1. Fantasy. 2. Magic — Fiction. 3. England — Fiction.]
I. Shepard, Mary, 1909– ill. II. Title.
[Fic] — dc21 97-223987
ISBN-13: 978-0-15-205810-4 ISBN-10: 0-15-205810-9
Text set in Old Style 7
Designed by April Ward
Printed in the United States of America
IF YOU WANT to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and then he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say: "First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you're there. Good-morning."
And sure enough, if you follow his directions exactly, you will be there — right in the middle of Cherry-Tree Lane, where the houses run down one side and the Park runs down the other and the cherry-trees go dancing right down the middle.
If you are looking for Number Seventeen — and it is more than likely that you will be, for this book is all about that particular house — you will very soon find it. To begin with, it is the smallest house in the Lane. And besides that, it is the only one that is rather dilapidated and needs a coat of paint. But Mr. Banks, who owns it, said to Mrs. Banks that she could have either a nice, clean, comfortable house or four children. But not both, for he couldn't afford it.
And after Mrs. Banks had given the matter some consideration she came to the conclusion that she would rather have Jane, who was the eldest, and Michael, who came next, and John and Barbara, who were Twins and came last of all. So it was settled, and that was how the Banks family came to live at Number Seventeen, with Mrs. Brill to cook for them, and Ellen to lay the tables, and Robertson Ay to cut the lawn and clean the knives and polish the shoes and, as Mr. Banks always said, "to waste his time and my money."
And, of course, besides these there was Katie Nanna, who doesn't really deserve to come into the book at all because, at the time I am speaking of, she had just left Number Seventeen.
"Without by your leave or a word of warning. And what am I to do?" said Mrs. Banks.
"Advertise, my dear," said Mr. Banks, putting on his shoes. "And I wish Robertson Ay would go without a word of warning, for he has again polished one boot and left the other untouched. I shall look very lopsided."
"That," said Mrs. Banks, "is not of the least importance. You haven't told me what I'm to do about Katie Nanna."
"I don't see how you can do anything about her since she has disappeared," replied Mr. Banks, "But if it were me — I mean I — well, I should get somebody to put in the Morning Paper the news that Jane and Michael and John and Barbara Banks (to say nothing of their Mother) require the best possible Nannie at the lowest possible wage and at once. Then I should wait and watch for the Nannies to queue up outside the front gate, and I should get very cross with them for holding up the traffic and making it necessary for me to give the policeman a shilling for putting him to so much trouble. Now I must be off. Whew, it's as cold as the North Pole. Which way is the wind blowing?"
And as he said that, Mr. Banks popped his head out of the window and looked down the Lane to Admiral Boom's house at the corner. This was the grandest house in the Lane, and the Lane was very proud of it because it was built exactly like a ship. There was a flagstaff in the garden, and on the roof was a gilt weathercock shaped like a telescope.
"Ha!" said Mr. Banks, drawing in his head very quickly. "Admiral's telescope says East Wind. I thought as much. There is frost in my bones. I shall wear two overcoats." And he kissed his wife absent-mindedly on one side of her nose and waved to the children and went away to the City.
Now, the City was a place where Mr. Banks went every day — except Sundays, of course, and Bank Holidays — and while he was there he sat on a large chair in front of a large desk and made money. All day long he worked, cutting out pennies and shillings and half-crowns and threepenny-bits. And he brought them home with him in his little black bag. Sometimes he would give some to Jane and Michael for their money-boxes, and when he couldn't spare any he would say, "The Bank is broken," and they would know he hadn't made much money that day.
Well, Mr. Banks went off with his black bag, and Mrs. Banks went into the drawing-room and sat there all day long writing letters to the papers and begging them to send some Nannies to her at once as she was waiting; and upstairs in the Nursery, Jane and Michael watched at the window and wondered who would come. They were glad Katie Nanna had gone, for they had never liked her. She was old and fat and smelt of barley-water. Anything, they thought, would be better than Katie Nanna — if not much better.
When the afternoon began to die away behind the Park, Mrs. Brill and Ellen came to give them their supper and to bath the Twins. And after supper Jane and Michael sat at the window watching for Mr. Banks to come home, and listening to the sound of the East Wind blowing through the naked branches of the cherry-trees in the Lane. The trees themselves, turning and bending in the half light, looked as though they had gone mad and were dancing their roots out of the ground.
"There he is!" said Michael, pointing suddenly to a shape that banged heavily against the gate. Jane peered through the gathering darkness.
"That's not Daddy," she said. "It's somebody else."
Then the shape, tossed and bent under the wind, lifted the latch of the gate, and they could see that it belonged to a woman, who was holding her hat on with one hand and carrying a bag in the other. As they watched, Jane and Michael saw a curious thing happen. As soon as the shape was inside the gate the wind seemed to catch her up into the air and fling her at the house. It was as though it had flung her first at the gate, waited for her to open it, and then had lifted and thrown her, bag and all, at the front door. The watching children heard a terrific bang, and as she landed the whole house shook.
"How funny! I've never seen that happen before," said Michael.
"Let's go and see who it is!" said Jane, and taking Michael's arm she drew him away from the window, through the Nursery and out on to the landing. From there they always had a good view of anything that happened in the front hall.
Presently they saw their Mother coming out of the drawing-room with a visitor following her. Jane and Michael could see that the newcomer had shiny black hair—"Rather like a wooden Dutch doll," whispered Jane. And that she was thin, with large feet and hands, and small, rather peering blue eyes.
Holding her hat on with one hand and carrying
a bag in the other
"You'll find that they are very nice children," Mrs. Banks was saying.
Michael's elbow gave a sharp dig at Jane's ribs.
"And that they give no trouble at all," continued Mrs. Banks uncertainly, as if she herself didn't really believe what she was saying. They heard the visitor sniff as though she didn't either.
"Now, about references—" Mrs. Banks went on.
"Oh, I make it a rule never to give references," said the other firmly. Mrs. Banks stared.
"But I thought it was usual," she said. "I mean — I understood people always did."
"A very old-fashioned idea, to my mind," Jane and Michael heard the stern voice say. "Very old-fashioned. Quite out of date, as you might say."
Now, if there was one thing Mrs. Banks did not like, it was to be thought old-fashioned. She just couldn't bear it. So she said quickly:
"Very well, then. We won't bother about them. I only asked, of course, in case you—er — required it. The nursery is upstairs—" And she led the way towards the staircase, talking all the time, without stopping once. And because she was doing that Mrs. Banks did not notice what was happening behind her, but Jane and Michael, watching from the top landing, had an excellent view of the extraordinary thing the visitor now did.
Certainly she followed Mrs. Banks upstairs, but not in the usual way. With her large bag in her hands she slid gracefully up the banisters, and arrived at the landing at the same time as Mrs. Banks. Such a thing, Jane and Michael knew, had never been done before. Down, of course, for they had often done it themselves. But up — never! They gazed curiously at the strange new visitor.
"Well, that's all settled, then." A sigh of relief came from the children's Mother.
"Quite. As long as I'm satisfied," said the other, wiping her nose with a large red and white bandanna handkerchief.
"Why, children," said Mrs. Banks, noticing them suddenly, "what are you doing there? This is your new nurse, Mary Poppins. Jane, Michael, say how do you do! And these" — she waved her hand at the babies in their cots—"are the Twins."
Mary Poppins regarded them steadily, looking from one to the other as though she were making up her mind whether she liked them or not.
"Will we do?" said Michael.
"Michael, don't be naughty," said his Mother.
Mary Poppins continued to regard the four children searchingly. Then, with a long, loud sniff that seemed to indicate that she had made up her mind, she said:
"I'll take the position."
"For all the world," as Mrs. Banks said to her husband later, "as though she were doing us a signal honour."
"Perhaps she is," said Mr. Banks, putting his nose round the corner of the newspaper for a moment and then withdrawing it very quickly.
When their Mother had gone, Jane and Michael edged towards Mary Poppins, who stood, still ELS a post, with her hands folded in front of her.
"How did you come?" Jane asked. "It looked just as if the wind blew you here."
"It did," said Mary Poppins briefly. And she proceeded to unwind her muffler from her neck and to take off her hat, which she hung on one of the bedposts.
As it did not seem as though Mary Poppins were going to say any more — though she sniffed a great deal — Jane, too, remained silent. But when she bent down to undo her bag, Michael could not restrain himself.
"What a funny bag!" he said, pinching it with his fingers.
"Carpet," said Mary Poppins, putting her key in the lock.
"To carry carpets in, you mean?"
"No. Made of."
"Oh," said Michael. "I see." But he didn't — quite.
By this time the bag was open, and Jane and Michael were more than surprised to find it was completely empty.
"Why," said Jane, "there's nothing in it!"
"What do you mean — nothing?" demanded Mary Poppins, drawing herself up and looking as though she had been insulted. "Nothing in it, did you say?"
And with that she took out from the empty bag a starched white apron and tied it round her waist. Next she unpacked a large cake of Sunlight Soap, a toothbrush, a packet of hairpins, a bottle of scent, a small folding armchair and a box of throat lozenges.
Jane and Michael stared.
"But I saw," whispered Michael. "It was empty."
"Hush!" said Jane, as Mary Poppins took out a large bottle labelled "One Tea-Spoon to be Taken at Bed-Time."
A spoon was attached to the neck of the bottle, and into this Mary Poppins poured a dark crimson fluid.
"Is that your medicine?" enquired Michael, looking very interested.
"No, yours," said Mary Poppins, holding out the spoon to him. Michael stared. He wrinkled up his nose. He began to protest.
"I don't want it. I don't need it. I won't!"
But Mary Poppins's eyes were fixed upon him, and Michael suddenly discovered that you could not look at Mary Popping and disobey her. There was something strange and extraordinary about her — something that was frightening and at the same time most exciting. The spoon came nearer. He held his breath, shut his eyes and gulped. A delicious taste ran round his mouth. He turned his tongue in it. He swallowed, and a happy smile ran round his face.
"Strawberry ice," he said ecstatically. "More, more, more!"
But Mary Poppins, her face as stern as before, was pouring out a dose for Jane. It ran into the spoon, silvery, greeny, yellowy. Jane tasted it.
"Lime-juice cordial," she said, sliding her tongue deliciously over her lips. But when she saw Mary Poppins moving towards the Twins with the bottle Jane rushed at her.
"Oh, no — please. They're too young. It wouldn't be good for them. Please!"
Mary Poppins, however, took no notice, but with a warning, terrible glance at Jane, tipped the spoon towards John's mouth. He lapped at it eagerly, and by the few drops that were spilt on his bib, Jane and Michael could tell that the substance in the spoon this time was milk. Then Barbara had her share, and she gurgled and licked the spoon twice.
Mary Poppins then poured out another dose and solemnly took it herself.
"Rum punch," she said, smacking her lips and corking the bottle.
Jane's eyes and Michael's popped with astonishment, but they were not given much time to wonder, for Mary Poppins, having put the miraculous bottle on the mantelpiece, turned to them.
"Now," she said, "spit-spot into bed." And she began to undress them. They noticed that whereas buttons and hooks had needed all sorts of coaxing from Katie Nanna, for Mary Poppins they flew apart almost at a look. In less than a minute they found themselves in bed and watching, by the dim light from the night-light, the rest of Mary Poppins's unpacking being performed.
From the carpet bag she took out seven flannel nightgowns, four cotton ones, a pair of boots, a set of dominoes, two bathing-caps and a postcard album. Last of all came a folding camp-bedstead with blankets and eiderdown complete, and this she set down between John's cot and Barbara's.
Jane and Michael sat hugging themselves and watching. It was all so surprising that they could find nothing to say. But they knew, both of them, that something strange and wonderful had happened at Number Seventeen, Cherry-Tree Lane.
Mary Poppins, slipping one of the flannel nightgowns over her head, began to undress underneath it as though it were a tent. Michael, charmed by this strange new arrival, unable to keep silent any longer, called to her.
"Mary Poppins," he cried, "you'll never leave us, will you?"
There was no reply from under the nightgown. Michael could not bear it.
"You won't leave us, will you?" he called anxiously.
Mary Poppins's head came out of the top of the nightgown. She looked very fierce.
"One word more from that direction," she said threateningly, "and I'll call the Policeman."
"I was only saying," began Michael, meekly, "that we hoped you wouldn't be going away soon—" He stopped, feeling very red and confused.
Mary Poppins stared from him to Jane in silence. Then she sniffed.
"I'll stay till the wind changes," she said shortly, and she blew out her candle and got into bed.
"That's all right," said Michael, half to himself and half to Jane. But Jane wasn't listening. She was thinking about all that had happened, and wondering….
* * *
And that is how Mary Poppins came to live at Number Seventeen, Cherry-Tree Lane. And although they sometimes found themselves wishing for the quieter, more ordinary days when Katie Nanna ruled the household, everybody, on the whole, was glad of Mary Poppins's arrival. Mr. Banks was glad because, as she arrived by herself and did not hold up the traffic, he had not had to tip the Policeman. Mrs. Banks was glad because she was able to tell everybody that her children's nurse was so fashionable that she didn't believe in giving references. Mrs. Brill and Ellen were glad because they could drink strong cups of tea all day in the kitchen and no longer needed to preside at nursery suppers. Robertson Ay was glad, too, because Mary Poppins had only one pair of shoes, and those she polished herself.
But nobody ever knew what Mary Poppins felt about it, for Mary Poppins never told anybody anything….
EVERY THIRD THURSDAY," said Mrs. Banks. "Two till five."
Mary Poppins eyed her sternly. "The best people, ma'am," she said, "give every second Thursday, and one till six. And those I shall take or—" Mary Poppins paused, and Mrs. Banks knew what the pause meant. It meant that if she didn't get what she wanted Mary Poppins would not stay.
"Very well, very well," said Mrs. Banks hurriedly, though she wished Mary Poppins did not know so very much more about the best people than she did herself.
So Mary Poppins put on her white gloves and tucked her umbrella under her arm — not because it was raining but because it had such a beautiful handle that she couldn't possibly leave it at home. How could you leave your umbrella behind if it had a parrot's head for a handle? Besides, Mary Poppins was very vain and liked to look her best. Indeed, she was quite sure that she never looked anything else.
Jane waved to her from the Nursery window.
"Where are you going?" she called.
"Kindly close that window," replied Mary Poppins, and Jane's head hurriedly disappeared inside the Nursery.
Mary Poppins walked down the garden path and opened the gate. Once outside in the Lane, she set off walking very quickly as if she were afraid the afternoon would run away from her if she didn't keep up with it. At the corner she turned to the right and then to the left, nodded haughtily to the Policeman, who said it was a nice day, and by that time she felt that her Day Out had begun.
She stopped beside an empty motor-car in order to put her hat straight with the help of the wind-screen, in which it was reflected, then she smoothed down her frock and tucked her umbrella more securely under her arm so that the handle, or rather the parrot, could be seen by everybody. After these preparations she went forward to meet the Match-Man.
Now, the Match-Man had two professions. He not only sold matches like any ordinary match-man, but he drew pavement pictures as well. He did these things turn-about according to the weather. If it was wet, he sold matches because the rain would have washed away his pictures if he had painted them. If it was fine, he was on his knees all day, making pictures in coloured chalks on the side-walks, and doing them so quickly that often you would find he had painted up one side of a street and down the other almost before you'd had time to come round the corner.
On this particular day, which was fine but cold, he was painting. He was in the act of adding a picture of two bananas, an apple, and a head of Queen Elizabeth to a long string of others, when Mary Poppins walked up to him, tip-toeing so as to surprise him.
"Hey!" called Mary Poppins softly.
He went on putting brown stripes on a banana and brown curls on Queen Elizabeth's head.
"Ahem!" said Mary Poppins, with a ladylike cough.
He turned with a start and saw her.
"Mary!" he cried, and you could tell by the way he cried it that Mary Poppins was a very important person in his life.
Mary Poppins looked down at her feet and rubbed the toe of one shoe along the pavement two or three times. Then she smiled at the shoe in such a way that the shoe knew quite well that the smile wasn't meant for it.
"It's my Day, Bert," she said. "Didn't you remember?" Bert was the Match-Man's name — Herbert Alfred for Sundays.
"Of course I remembered, Mary," he said, "but—" and he stopped and looked sadly into his cap. It lay on the ground beside his last picture and there was tuppence in it. He picked it up and jingled the pennies.
"That all you got, Bert?" said Mary Poppins, and she said it so brightly you could hardly tell she was disappointed at all.
"That's the lot," he said. "Business is bad today. You'd think anybody'd be glad to pay to see that, wouldn't you?" And he nodded his head at Queen Elizabeth. "Well — that's how it is, Mary," he sighed. "Can't take you to tea today, I'm afraid."
Mary Poppins thought of the raspberry-jam-cakes they always had on her Day Out, and she was just going to sigh, when she saw the Match-Man's face. So, very cleverly, she turned the sigh into a smile — a good one with both ends turned up — and said:
That's all right, Bert. Don't you mind. I'd much rather not go to tea. A stodgy meal, I call it — really."
And that, when you think how very much she liked raspberry-jam-cakes, was rather nice of Mary Poppins.
The Match-Man apparently thought so, too, for he took her white-gloved hand in his and squeezed it hard. Then together they walked down the row of pictures.
"Now, there's one you've never seen before!" said the Match-Man proudly, pointing to a painting of a mountain covered with snow and its slopes simply littered with grasshoppers sitting on gigantic roses.
This time Mary Poppins could indulge in a sigh without hurting his feelings.
"Oh, Bert," she said, "that's a fair treat!" And by the way she said it she made him feel that by rights the picture should have been in the Royal Academy, which is a large room where people hang the pictures they have painted. Everybody comes to see them, and when they have looked at them for a very long time, everybody says to everybody else: "The idea — my dear!"
The next picture Mary Poppins and the Match-Man came to was even better. It was the country — all trees and grass and a little bit of blue sea in the distance, and something that looked like Margate in the background.
"My word!" said Mary Poppins admiringly, stooping so that she could see it better. "Why, Bert, whatever is the matter?"
For the Match-Man had caught hold of her other hand now, and was looking very excited.
"Mary," he said, "I got an idea! A real idea. Why don't we go there — right now — this very day? Both together, into the picture. Eh, Mary?" And still holding her hands he drew her right out of the street, away from the iron railings and the lamp-posts, into the very middle of the picture. Pff! There they were, right inside it!
How green it was there and how quiet, and what soft crisp grass under their feet! They could hardly believe it was true, and yet here were green branches huskily rattling on their hats as they bent beneath them, and little coloured flowers curling round their shoes. They stared at each other, and each noticed that the other had changed. To Mary Poppins the Match-Man seemed to have bought himself an entirely new suit of clothes, for he was now wearing a bright green-and-red striped coat and white flannel trousers and, best of all, a new straw hat. He looked unusually clean, as though he had been polished.
"Why, Bert, you look fine!" she cried in an admiring voice.
Bert could not say anything for a moment, for his mouth had fallen open and he was staring at her with round eyes. Then he gulped and said: "Golly!"
That was all. But he said it in such a way and stared so steadily and so delightedly at her that she took a little mirror out of her bag and looked at herself in it.
She, too, she discovered, had changed. Round her shoulders hung a cloak of lovely artificial silk with watery patterns all over it, and the tickling feeling at the back of her neck came, the mirror told her, from a long curly feather that swept down from the brim of her hat. Her best shoes had disappeared, and in their place were others much finer and with large diamond buckles shining upon them. She was still wearing the white gloves and carrying the umbrella.
"My goodness," said Mary Poppins, "I am having a Day Out!"
So, still admiring themselves and each other, they moved on together through the little wood, till presently they came upon a little open space filled with sunlight. And there on a green table was Afternoon-Tea!
A pile of raspberry-jam-cakes as high as Mary Poppins's waist stood in the centre, and beside it tea was boiling in a big brass urn. Best of all, there were two plates of whelks and two pins to pick them out with.
"Strike me pink!" said Mary Poppins. That was what she always said when she was pleased.
"Golly!" said the Match-Man. And that was his particular phrase.
"Won't you sit down, Moddom?" enquired a voice, and they turned to find a tall man in a black coat coming out of the wood with a table-napkin over his arm.
Mary Poppins, thoroughly surprised, sat down with a plop upon one of the little green chairs that stood round the table. The Match-Man, staring, collapsed on to another.
"I'm the Waiter, you know!" explained the man in the black coat.
"Oh! But I didn't see you in the picture," said Mary Poppins.
"Ah, I was behind the tree," explained the Waiter.
"Won't you sit down?" said Mary Poppins, politely.
"Waiters never sit down, Moddom," said the man, but he seemed pleased at being asked.
"Your whelks, Mister!" he said, pushing a plate of