1 THE STRANGE OLD SHOP
The adventures really began on the day that Mollie and Peter went out to spend thirty-five pence on a present for their mother’s birthday.
They emptied the money out of their money-box and counted it.
‘Thirty-five!’ said Peter. ‘Good! Now, what shall we buy Mother?’
‘Mother loves old things,’ said Mollie. ‘If we could find an old shop somewhere, full of old things-you know, funny spoons, quaint vases, old glasses and beads-something of that sort would be lovely for Mother. She would love an old teacaddy to keep the tea in, I’m sure, or perhaps an old, old vase.’
‘All right,’ said Peter. ‘We’ll go and find one of those shops this very day. Put on your hat and come on, Mollie.’
Off they went, and ran into the town.
‘It’s a shop with the word “Antiques” over it that we want,’ said Peter. ‘Antiques means old things. Just look out for that, Mollie.’
But there seemed to be no shop with the word ‘Antiques’ printed over it at all. The children left the main street and went down a little turning. There were more shops there, but still not the one they wanted. So on they went and came to a small, narrow street whose houses were so close that there was hardly any light in the road!
And there, tucked away in the middle, was the shop with ‘Antiques’ printed on a label inside the dirty window.
‘Good!’ said Peter. ‘Here is a shop that sells old things. Look, Mollie, do you see that strange little vase with swans set all round it? I’m sure Mother would like that. It is marked twenty-five pence. We could buy that and some flowers to put in it!’
So into the old dark shop they went. It was so dark that the children stumbled over some piled-up rugs on the floor. Nobody seemed to be about. Peter went to the counter and rapped on it. A tiny door at the back opened and out came the strangest little man, no higher than the countertop. He had pointed ears like a pixie. The children stared at him in surprise. He looked very cross, and spoke sharply.
‘What do you want, making a noise like that?’
‘We want to buy the vase with swans round it,’ said Peter. Muttering and grumbling to himself, the little chap picked up the vase and pushed it across the counter. Peter put down the money. ‘Can I have some paper to wrap the vase in?’ he asked politely. ‘You see, it’s for my mother’s birthday, and I don’t want her to see me carrying it home.’
Grumbling away to himself, the little man went to a pile of boxes at the back of the shop and began to open one to look for a piece of paper. The children watched. To their enormous surprise a large black cat with golden eyes jumped out of the box and began to spit and snarl at the little man. He smacked it and put it back again. He opened another box.
Out of that came a great wreath of green smoke that wound about the shop and smelt strange. The little man caught hold of it as if it were a ribbon and tried to stuff it back into the box again. But it broke off and went wandering away. How he stamped and raged! The children felt quite frightened.
‘We’d better go without the paper,’ whispered Mollie to Peter, but just then another extraordinary thing happened. Out of the next box came a crowd of blue butterflies. They flew into the air, and the little man shouted with rage again. He darted to the door and shut it, afraid that the butterflies would escape. To the children’s horror they saw him lock the door too and put the key into his pocket!
‘We can’t get out till he lets us go!’ said Mollie. ‘Oh dear, why did we ever come here? I’m sure that little man is a gnome or something.’
The little fellow opened another box, and, hey presto ! out jumped a red fox! It gave a short bark and then began to run about the shop, its nose to the ground. The children were half afraid of being bitten, and they both sat in an old chair together, their legs drawn up off the ground, out of the way of the fox.
It was the most curious shop they had ever been in! Fancy keeping all those queer things in boxes! Really, there must be magic about somewhere. It couldn’t be a proper shop.
The children noticed a little stairway leading off the shop about the middle, and suddenly at the top of this, there appeared somebody else! It was somebody tall and thin, with such a long beard that it swept the ground. On his head was a pointed hat that made him seem taller still.
‘Look!’ said Mollie. ‘Doesn’t he look like a wizard?’
‘Tippit, Tippit, what are you doing?’ cried the newcomer, in a strange, deep voice, like the rumbling of faraway thunder.
‘Looking for a piece of paper!’ answered the little man, in a surly tone. ‘And all I can find is butterflies and foxes, a black cat, and-’
‘What! You’ve dared to open those boxes!’ shouted the other angrily. He stamped down the stairs, and then saw the children.
‘And who are you?’ he asked, staring at them. ‘How dare you come here?’
‘We wanted to buy this vase,’ said Peter, frightened.
‘Well, seeing you are here, you can help Tippit to catch the fox,’ said the tall man, twisting his beard up into a knot and tying it under his chin. ‘Come on!’
‘I don’t want to,’ said Mollie. ‘He might bite me. Unlock the door and let us go out.’
‘Not till the fox and all the butterflies are caught and put into their boxes again,’ said the tall man.
‘Oh dear!’ said Peter, making no movement to get out of the chair, in which he and Mollie were still sitting with their legs drawn up. ‘I do wish we were safely at home!’
And then the most extraordinary thing of all happened! The chair they were in began to creak and groan, and suddenly it rose up in the air, with the two children in it! They held tight, wondering whatever was happening! It flew to the door, but that was shut. It flew to the window, but that was shut too.
Meantime the wizard and Tippit were running after it, crying out in rage. ‘How dare you use our wishing-chair! Wish it back, wish it back!’
‘I shan’t !’ cried Peter. ‘Go on, wishing-chair, take us home!’
The chair finding that it could not get out of the door or the window, flew up the little stairway. It nearly got stuck in the doorway at the top, which was rather narrow, but just managed to squeeze itself through. Before the children could see what the room upstairs was like, the chair flew to the window there, which was open, and out it went into the street. It immediately rose up very high indeed, far beyond the housetops, and flew towards the children’s home. How amazed they were! And how tightly they clung to the arms! It would be dreadful to fall!
‘I say, Mollie, can you hear a flapping noise?’ said Peter. ‘Has the chair got wings anywhere?’
Mollie peeped cautiously over the edge of the chair. ‘Yes!’ she said. ‘It has a little red wing growing out of each leg, and they make the flapping noise! How queer!’
The chair began to fly downwards. The children saw that they were just over their garden.
‘Go to our playroom, chair,’ said Peter quickly. The chair went to a big shed at the bottom of the garden. Inside was a playroom for the children, and here they kept all their toys and books, and could play any game they liked. The chair flew in at the open door and came to rest on the floor. The children jumped off and looked at one another.
‘The first real adventure we’ve ever had in our lives!’ said Mollie, in delight. ‘Oh, Peter, to think we’ve got a magic chair-a wishing-chair!’
‘Well, it isn’t really ours,’ said Peter, putting the swan vase carefully down on the table. ‘Perhaps we had better send it back to that shop.’
‘I suppose we had,’ said Mollie sadly. ‘It would be so lovely if we could keep it!’
‘Go back to your shop, chair,’ commanded Peter. The chair didn’t move an inch! Peter spoke to it again; still the chair wouldn’t move! There it was and there it stayed. And suddenly the children noticed that its little red wings had gone from the legs! It looked just an ordinary chair now!
‘See, Mollie! The chair hasn’t any wings!’ cried Peter. ‘It can’t fly. I expect it is only when it grows wings that it can fly. It must just have grown them when we were sitting in it in the shop. What luck for us!’
‘Peter! Let’s wait till the chair has grown wings again, and then get in it and see where it goes!’ said Mollie, her face red with excitement. ‘Oh, do let’s!’
‘Well, it might take us anywhere!’ said Peter doubtfully . ‘Still, we’ve always wanted adventures, Mollie, haven’t we? So we’ll try! The very next time our wishing-chair grows wings, we’ll sit in it and fly off again!’
‘Hurrah!’ said Mollie. ‘I hope it will be tomorrow!’
tuck away (ph.) 隱藏
frightened [ˋfraɪtnd] (adj.) 【口】害怕的
presto [ˋprɛsto] (int.) 轉眼間
shan’t [ʃænt] (abbr.) 【= shall not】 不要、不願
cautiously [ˋkɔʃəslɪ] (adv.) 小心地、謹慎地
doubtfully [ˋdaʊtfəlɪ] (adv.) 懷疑地、含糊地