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Mary Poppins Opens the Door
Mary Poppins reappears just in time! According to her tape measure, Jane and Michael have grown "Worse and Worse" since she went away. But the children won't have time to be naughty with all that Mary has planned for them. A visit to Mr. Twigley's music box-filled attic, an encounter with the Marble Boy, and a ride on Miss Calico's enchanted candy canes are all part of an average day out with everyone's favorite nanny
First published 1943
The Library of Congress has cataloged an earlier edition as follows:
Travers, P. L., 1899–1996.
Mary Poppins opens the door/P. L. Travers.
Summary: Mary Poppins returns to the Banks family in a
rocket and involves the Banks children in more magical adventures,
including those with Peppermint Horses, the Marble Boy,
and the Cat That Looked at the King.
[1. Fantasy.] I. Shepard, Mary, 1909– ill. II. Sims, Agnes. III. Title.
ISBN-13: 978-0-15-201722-4 ISBN-10: 0-15-201722-4
Text set in Old Style 7
Display type hand-lettered by Georgia Deaver
Designed by April Ward
Printed in the United States of America
K M N L
A day in the Park
The Fifth of November is Guy Fawkes' Day in England. In peacetime it is celebrated with bonfires on the greens, fireworks in the parks and the carrying of "guys" through the streets. "Guys" are stuffed, straw figures of unpopular persons; and after they have been shown to everybody they are burnt in the bonfires amid great acclamation. The children black their faces and put on comical clothes, and go about begging for a Penny for the Guy. Only the very meanest people refuse to give pennies and these are always visited by Extreme Bad Luck.
The Original Guy Fawkes was one of the men who took part in the Gunpowder Plot. This was a conspiracy for blowing up King James I and the Houses of Parliament on November 5 th, 1605. The plot was discovered, however, before any damage was done. The only result was that King James and his Parliament went on living but Guy Fawkes, poor man, did not. He was executed with the other conspirators. Nevertheless, it is Guy Fawkes who is remembered today and King James who is forgotten. For since that time, the Fifth of November in England, like the Fourth of July in America, has been devoted to Fireworks. From 1605 till 1939 every village green in the shires had a bonfire on Guy Fawkes' Day. In the village where I live, in Sussex, we made our bonfire in the Vicarage paddock and every year, as soon as it was lit, the Vicar's cow would begin to dance. She danced while the flames roared up to the sky, she danced till the ashes were black and cold. And the next morning — it was always the same — the Vicar would have no milk for his breakfast. It is strange to think of a simple cow rejoicing so heartily at the saving of Parliament so many years ago.
Since 1939, however, there have been no bonfires on the village greens. No fireworks gleam in the blackened parks and the streets are dark and silent. But this darkness will not last forever. There will some day come a Fifth of November — or another date, it doesn't matter — when fires will burn in a chain of brightness from Land's End to John O'Groats. The children will dance and leap about them as they did in the times before. They will take each other by the hand and watch the rockets breaking, and afterwards they will go home singing to the houses full of light….
P. L. T. (1943)
* * *
IT WAS one of those bleak and chilly mornings that remind you winter is coming. Cherry-Ttee Lane was quiet and still. The mist hung over the Park like a shadow. All the houses looked exactly alike as the grey fog wrapped them round. Admiral Boom's flagstaff, with the telescope at the top of it, had entirely disappeared.
The Milkman, as he turned into the Lane, could hardly see his way.
"Milk Be-l-o-o-ow!" he called, outside the Admiral's door. And his voice sounded so queer and hollow that it gave him quite a fright.
"I'll go 'ome till the fog lifts," he said to himself. "'Ere! Look where you're goin'!" he went on, as a shape loomed suddenly out of the mist and bumped against his shoulder.
"Bumble, bumble, bum-bur-um-bumble," said a gentle, muffled voice.
"Oh, it's you!" said the Milkman, with a sigh of relief.
"Bumble," remarked the Sweep again. He was holding his brushes in front of his face to keep his moustache dry.
"Out early, aren't you?" the Milkman said.
The Sweep gave a jerk of his black thumb towards Miss Lark's house.
"Had to do the chimbley before the dogs had breakfast. In case the soot gave them a cough," he explained.
The Milkman laughed rudely. For that was what everybody did when Miss Lark's two dogs were mentioned.
The mist went wreathing through the air. There was not a sound in the Lane.
"Ugh!" said the Milkman, shivering. "This quiet gives me the 'Orrors!"
And as he said that, the Lane woke up. A sudden roar came from one of the houses and the sound of stamping feet.
"That's Number Seventeen!" said the Sweep. "Excuse me, old chap. I think I'm needed." He cautiously felt his way to the gate and went up the garden path….
Inside the house, Mr. Banks was marching up and down, kicking the hall furniture.
"I've had about all I can stand!" he shouted, waving his arms wildly.
"You keep on saying that," Mrs. Banks cried. "But you won't tell me what's the matter." She looked at Mr. Banks anxiously.
"Everything's the matter!" he roared. "Look at this!" He waggled his right foot at her. "And this!" he went on, as he waggled his left.
Mrs. Banks peered closely at the feet. She was rather short-sighted and the hall was misty.
"I — er — don't see anything wrong," she began timidly.
"Of course you don't!" he said, sarcastically. "It's only imagination, of course, that makes me think Robertson Ay has given me one black shoe and one brown!" And again he waggled his feet.
"Oh!" said Mrs. Banks hurriedly. For now she saw clearly what the trouble was.
"You may well say 'Oh!' So will Robertson Ay when I give him the sack tonight."
"It's not his fault, Daddy!" cried Jane, from the stairs. "He couldn't see — because of the fog. Besides, he's not strong."
"He's strong enough to make my life a misery!" said Mr. Banks angrily.
"He needs rest, Daddy!" Michael reminded him, hurrying down after Jane.
"He'll get it!" promised Mr. Banks, as he snatched up his bag. "When I think of the things I could have done if I hadn't gone and got married! Lived alone in a Cave, perhaps. Or I might have gone Round the World."
"And what would we have done, then?" asked Michael.
"You would have had to fend for yourselves. And serve you right! Where's my overcoat?"
"You have it on, George," said Mrs. Banks, meekly.
"Yes!" he retorted. "And only one button! But anything's good enough for me! I'm only the man who Pays the Bills. I shall not be home for dinner."
A wail of protest went up from the children.
"But it's Guy Fawkes' Day," wheedled Mrs. Banks. "And you so good at letting off rockets."
"No rockets for me!" cried Mr. Banks. "Nothing but trouble from morning till night!" He shook Mrs. Banks' hand from his arm and dashed out of the house.
"Shake, sir!" said the Sweep in a friendly voice as Mr. Banks knocked into him, "It's lucky, you know, to shake hands with a Sweep."
"Away, away!" said Mr. Banks wildly. "This is not my lucky day!"
The Sweep looked after him for a moment. Then he smiled to himself and rang the door-bell….
"He doesn't mean it, does he, Mother? He will come home for the fireworks!" Jane and Michael rushed at Mrs. Banks and tugged at her skirt.
"Oh, I can't promise anything, children!" she sighed, as she looked at her face in the front hall mirror.
And she thought to herself — Yes, I'm getting thinner. One of my dimples has gone already and soon I shall lose the second. No one will look at me any more. And it's all her fault!
By her, Mrs. Banks meant Mary Poppins, who had been the children's nurse. As long as Mary Poppins was in the house, everything had gone smoothly. But since that day when she had left them — so suddenly and without a Word of Warning — the family had gone from Bad to Worse.
Here am I, thought Mrs. Banks miserably, with five wild children and no one to help me. I've advertised. I've asked my friends. But nothing seems to happen. And George is getting crosser and crosser; and Annabel's teething; and Jane and Michael and the Twins are so naughty, not to mention that awful Income Tax—
She watched a tear run over the spot where the dimple had once been.
"It's no good," she said, with sudden decision. "I shall have to send for Miss Andrew."
A cry went up from all four children. Away in the Nursery, Annabel screamed. For Miss Andrew had once been their Father's governess and they knew how frightful she was.
"I won't speak to her!" shouted Jane, in a rage.
"I'll spit on her shoes if she comes!" threatened Michael.
"No, no!" wailed John and Barbara miserably.
Mrs. Banks clapped her hands to her ears. "Children, have mercy!" she cried in despair.
"Beg pardon, ma'am," said Ellen the housemaid, as she tapped Mrs. Banks on the shoulder. "The Sweep is 'ere for the Drawing-room Chimbley. But I warn you, ma'am, it's my Day Out! And I can't clean up after 'im. So there!" She blew her nose with a trumpeting sound.
"Excuse me!" said the Sweep cheerfully, as he dragged in his bags and brushes.
"'Oo's that?" came the voice of Mrs. Brill as she hurried up from the kitchen. "The Sweep? On Baking Day? No, you don't! I'm sorry to give you notice, ma'am. But if that Hottentot goes into the chimney, I shall go out of the door."
Mrs. Banks glanced round desperately.
"I didn't ask him to come!" she declared. "I don't even know if the chimney wants sweeping!"
"A chimbley's always glad of a brush." The Sweep stepped calmly into the Drawing-room and began to spread out his sheet.
Mrs. Banks looked nervously at Mrs. Brill. "Perhaps Robertson Ay could help—" she began.
"Robertson is asleep in the pantry, wrapped in your best lace shawl. And nothing will wake him," said Mrs. Brill, "but the sound of the Last TYombone. So, if you please, I'll be packing my bag. 'Ow! Let me go, you Hindoo!"
For the Sweep had seized Mrs. Brill's hand and was shaking it vigorously. A reluctant smile spread over her face.
"Well — just this once!" she remarked cheerfully. And she went down the kitchen stairs.
The Sweep turned to Ellen with a grin.
"Don't touch me, you black heathen!" she screamed in a terrified voice. But he took her hand in a firm grip and she, too, began to smile. "Well, no messing up the carpet!" she warned him, and hurried off to her work.
"Shake!" said the Sweep, as he turned to the children. "It's sure to bring you luck!" He left a black mark on each of their palms and they all felt suddenly better.
Then he put out his hand to Mrs. Banks. And as she took his warm black fingers her courage came flowing back.
"We must make the best of things, darlings," she said. "I shall advertise for another nurse. And perhaps something good will happen."
Jane and Michael sighed with relief. At least she was not going to send for Miss Andrew.
"What do you do when yon need luck?" asked Jane, as she followed the Sweep to the Drawing-room.
"Oh, I just shake 'ands with meself," he said, cheerfully, pushing his brush up the chimney.
All day long the children watched him and argued over who should hand him the brushes. Now and again Mrs. Banks came in, to complain of the noise and hurry the Sweep.
And all day long, beyond the windows, the mist crept through the Lane. Every sound was muffled. The birds were gone. Except for an old and moulting Starling who kept on peering through the cracks in the blinds as if he were looking for someone.
At last the Sweep crept out of the chimney and smiled at his handiwork.
"So kind of you!" said Mrs. Banks hurriedly. "Now, I'm sure you must want to pack up and go home—"
"I'm in no 'Urry," remarked the Sweep. "Me Tea isn't ready till six o'clock and I've got an hour to fill in—"
"Well, you can't fill it in here!" Mrs. Banks shrieked. "I have to tidy up this room before my husband comes home!"
"I tell you what—" the Sweep said calmly. "If you've got a rocket or two about you, I could take them children into the Park and show 'em a few fireworks. It'd give you a rest and meself a TVeat. I've always been very partial to rockets, ever since a boy—and before!"
A yell of delight went up from the children. Michael ran to a window and lifted the blind.
"Oh, look what's happened!" he cried in triumph.
For a change had come to Cherry-Tree Lane. The chill grey mist had cleared away. The houses were lit with warm soft lights. And away in the West shone a glimmer of sunset, rosy and clear and bright.
"Remember your coats!" cried Mrs. Banks, as the children darted away. Then she ran to the cupboard under the staircase and brought out a nobbly parcel.
"Here you are!" she said breathlessly to the Sweep. "And, mind, be careful of sparks!"
"Sparks?" said the Sweep. "Why, sparks is my 'Obby. Them and the soot wot comes after!"
The children leapt like puppies about him as he went down the garden path. Mrs. Banks sat down for two minutes' rest on one of the sheet-covered chairs. The Starling looked in at her for a moment. Then he shook his head disappointedly and flew away again….
* * *
Daylight was fading as they crossed the road. By the Park railings Bert, the Matchman, was spreading out his tray. He lit a candle with one of his matches and began to draw pictures on the pavement. He nodded gaily to the children as they hurried through the Gates.
"Now, all we need," the Sweep said fussily, "is a clear patch of grass—"
"Which you won't get!" said a voice behind them. "The Park is closed at 5:30."
Out from the shadows came the Park Keeper, looking very belligerent.
"But it's Guy Fawkes' Day — the Fifth of November!" the children answered quickly.
"Orders is orders!" he retorted, "and all days are alike to me."
"Well, where can we let off the fireworks?" Michael demanded impatiently.
A greedy look leapt to the Keeper's eyes.
"You got some fireworks?" he said hungrily. "Well, why not say so before!" And he snatched the parcel from the Sweep and began to untie the string. "Matches — that's what we need!" he went on, panting with excitement.
"Here," said the Matchman's quiet voice. He had followed the children into the Park and was standing behind them with his lighted candle.
The Park Keeper opened a bundle of Squibs.
"They're ours, you know!" Michael reminded him.
"Ah, let me help you — do!" said the Keeper. "I've never 'ad fun on Guy Fawkes' Day — never since I was a boy!"
And without waiting for permission, he lit the Squibs at the Matchman's candle. The hissing streams of fire poured out, and pop, pop, pop, went the crackers. The Park Keeper seized a Catherine Wheel and stuck it on a branch. The rings of light began to turn and sparkled on the air. And after that he was so excited that nothing could stop him. He went on lighting fuse after fuse as though he had gone mad.
Flower Pots streamed from the dewy grass and Golden Rain flowed down through the darkness. Top Hats burned for a bright short moment; Balloons went floating up to the branches; and Firesnakes writhed in the shadows. The children jumped and squeaked and shouted. The Park Keeper ran about among them like a large frenzied dog. And amid the noise and the sparkling lights the Matchman waited quietly. The flame of his candle never wavered as they lit their fuses from it.
"Now!" cried the Keeper, who was hoarse with shouting. "Now we come to the rockets!"
All the other fireworks had gone. Nothing remained in the nobbly parcel except three long black sticks.
"No you don't!" said the Sweep, as the Keeper snatched them. "Share and share. That's fair!" He gave the Keeper one rocket and kept the others for himself and the children.
"Make way, make way!" said the Keeper importantly, as he lit the fuse at the candle flame and stuck the stick in the ground.
Hissing and guttering, the spark ran down like a little golden thread. Then — whoop! went the stick as it shot away. Up in the sky the children heard a small faraway bang. And a swirl of red-and-blue stars broke out and rained upon the Park.
"Oh!" cried the children. And "Oh!" cried the Sweep. For that is the only word anyone can say when a rocket's stars break out.
Then it was the Sweep's turn. The candle-light gleamed on his black face as he lit the fuse of his rocket. Then came a whoop and another bang and white-and-green stars spread over the sky like the ribs of a bright umbrella. And again the watchers all cried "Oh!" and sighed for sheer joy.
"It's our turn now!" cried Jane and Michael. And their fingers trembled as they lit the fuse. They pressed the stick down into the earth and stepped back to watch. The thread of golden fire ran down. Whe-e-e-ew! Up went the stick with a singing sound, up to the very top of the sky. And Jane and Michael held their breath as they waited for it to burst.
At last, far away and very faint, they heard the little bang.
Now for the stars, they thought to themselves.
But — alas! — nothing happened.
"Oh!" said everyone again — not for joy this time, but for disappointment. For no stars broke from the third rocket. There was nothing but darkness and the empty sky.
"Tticksy — that's what they are!" said the Sweep. "There are some as just doesn't go off! Well, come on home, all. There's no good staring. Nothing will come down now!"
"Closing Time! Everyone out of the Park!" cried the Park Keeper importantly.
But Jane and Michael took no notice. They stood there watching, hand in hand. For their hopeful eyes had noticed something that nobody else had seen. Up in the sky a tiny spark hovered and swayed in the darkness. What could it be? Not the stick of the rocket, for that must have fallen long ago. And certainly not a star, they thought, for the little spark was moving.
"Perhaps it's a special kind of rocket that has only one spark," said Michael.
"Perhaps," Jane answered quietly, as she watched the tiny light.
They stood together, gazing upwards. Even if there was only one spark they would watch till it went out. But, strangely enough, it did not go out. In fact, it was growing larger.
"Let's get a move on!" urged the Sweep. And again the Park Keeper cried:
But still they waited. And still the spark grew ever larger and brighter. Then suddenly Jane caught her breath. And Michael gave a gasp. Oh, was it possible—? Could it be—? they silently asked each other.
Down came the spark, growing longer and wider. And as it came, it took on a shape that was strange and also familiar. Out of the glowing core of light emerged a curious figure — a figure in a black straw hat and a blue coat trimmed with silver buttons — a figure that carried in one hand something that looked like a carpet bag, and in the other — oh, could it be true? — a parrot-headed umbrella.
Behind them the Matchman gave a cry and ran through the Park Gates.
The curious figure was drifting now to the tops of the naked trees. Its feet touched the highest bough of an oak and stepped down daintily through the branches. It stood for a moment on the lowest bough and balanced itself neatly.
Jane and Michael began to run and their breath broke from them in a happy shout.
"Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins!" Half-laughing, half-weeping, they flung themselves upon her.
"You've c-come b-back, at 1-last!" stammered Michael excitedly, as he clutched her neatly shod foot. It was warm and bony and quite real and it smelt of Black Boot-polish.
"We knew you'd come back. We trusted you!" Jane seized Mary Poppins' other foot and dragged at her cotton stocking.
Mary Poppins' mouth crinkled with the ghost of a smile. Then she looked at the children fiercely.
"I'll thank you to let go my shoes!" she snapped. "I am not an object in a Bargain Basement!"
She shook them off and stepped down from the tree, as John and Barbara, mewing like kittens, rushed over the grass towards her.
"Hyenas!" she said with an angry glare, as she loosened their clutching fingers. "And what, may I ask, are you all doing — running about in the Park at night and looking like Blackamoors?"
Quickly they pulled out handkerchiefs and began to rub their cheeks.
"My fault, Miss Poppins," the Sweep apologised. "I been sweeping the Drawing-room chimbley."
"Somebody will be sweeping you, if you don't look out!" she retorted.
"But-but! Glog-glog! Er-rumph! Glug-glug!" Speechless with astonishment, the Park Keeper blocked their path.
"Out of my way, please!" said Mary Poppins, haughtily brushing him aside as she pushed the children in front of her.
"This is the Second Time!" he gasped, suddenly finding his voice. "First it's a Kite and now it's a — You can't do things like this, I tell you! It's against the Law. And, furthermore, it's all against Nature."