The Silver New Nothing
The Trees that Made the Wind

Two Stories by Eleanor Farjeon

from Kaleidoscope

A Silver New Nothing

BAA was not at all old, she was only fourteen when she first gave Anthony a bath, but she and ĎLla were the eldest of a family of ten, and she knew all about bathing babies when she was nine. As Anthony grew up and came to be six years old, I dare say she seemed to him a great deal older than twenty, and very much taller than five-foot-one, which was all she ever was, though of course she grew older in time. And after all, perhaps Anthony didnít think if she was tall or little, or young or old. She was just his Baa, who often played with him, and sometimes scolded him, and was always there, and always would be. He trotted round the old house and later on round the old garden, after her; and at last he trotted in her wake out of the garden, and through the lanes to the village. On the days when she had to go farther afield, she would give him a plump kiss and say, "Bye-bye, my lamb. Baaís going to market. Donít ee cry, and Iíll bring ee a Silver New Nothing for a fairing."

Then off she went with her round brown basket on her arm, and her rosy round face on the top of her dapper round body; and Anthony was left to play in the garden, with the sound of the Silver New Nothing ringing in his ears. But just as the sound of a bell is soon silent after it has stopped rining, so Anthony soon forgot all about his Silver New Nothing. He became too busy grubbing in his own little garden-plot, where he planted bits of flowers that he had picked from other parts of the garden. Or else he was busy in the orchard, tying Duffle the spaniel to a little cart, and filling it with windfalls from the grass, for Cook to make into pies and dumplings. So when Baa came back from market, he never asked her for the Silver New Nothing, and was quite satisfied when she popped a toffee-drop in his mouth, and kept it in place with another big kiss, because he had been a good boy and not cried.

Then one day, when Anthony was older than he had been last week, Baa said, "Come along, my lamb. Baaís going to market, and you shall come too."

"Shall I have a Silver New Nothing, Baa?" asked Anthony.

"That you shall!" said Baa heartily, and thought no more about it. But this time Anthony didnít forget it, because he hadnít got his garden to think about, or Duffle, or the apples, or anything except the Silver New Nothing to which he was on the very road.

A very long road it was, but they got to the market at last, and Anthony trotted in and out after Baa among the stalls, some with useful things on them like bootlaces and wooden spoons, and some with delightful things like toffee-drops and sugar-candy, and some with eggs and vegetables, and some with china mugs and places, and some with ribbons and aprons and stuffs of all sorts. And all the time, while Baa was buying butter and calico to put in her basket, Anthony kept looking and looking for the stall that sold Silver New Nothings; and he couldnít see it anywhere.

At last Baa said, "There, lamb, Iím done. Now weíll buy a pennyworth of toffee-drops, and go along home."

But Anthony said, "I donít want toffee-drops, I want a Silver New Nothing."

Baa laughed heartily, as she did at all things, and the Toffee-drop Man, whose name was Mr. Pearce, laughed too behind his stall, and counted out the toffees as Baa put down her penny.

"There!" said Baa, dropping a toffee into Anthonyís hand, "thereís thy Silver New Nothing, to be sure."

Anthony stared at the sticky brown drop with which he was so familiar, and then stared up at Baa, and then he hid his face against her skirt and curst into tears.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" cried Baa, greatly surprised, "donít ee want thy toddee then?"

"I want a Silver New Nothing," wept Anthony through his tears.

"Thereís a silly lamb now," scolded Baa. "Now listen, if ee donít stop Iíll not bring ee to market again."

But Anthony only sobbed, "I want a Silver New Nothing."

"Why, thereís no such thing," said Baa. "Suck thy toffee and be quiet, do. A Silver New Nothing indeed! Did ever ee hear tell of such a silly little boy, Mr. Pearce?"

Mr. Pearce, who had a big and shy but smiling face, leaned over his stall and tapped Anthony on the back. "Do ee stop crying, my dear, do ee now! and Iíll giíe thee a beautiful Silver New Nothing, I will."

Anthony checked his sobs, took his face out of Baaís dress, and gazed at Mr. Pearce with his little tear-stained face. And Mr. Pearce fumbled under the stall and bought out a Silver New Nothing, quite New. It looked like the top and neck of a bottle, but wasnít, for there was nothing whatever inside it; and on the top were some letters that Anthony couldnít read, and a star that he could read quite well.

"Oh thank you!" said Anthony, full of happiness; and Mr. Pearce laughed, and Baa laughed, and Anthony laughed too, he didnít know why. As the Silver New Nothing was empty, he put his brown toffee-drop inside it, and trotted home beside Baa, crumpling it up tight in his sticky little hand; and when he got home he uncrumpled it, and put the toffee in his mouth, and ran into the house for find Duffle, dropping the Silver New Nothing somewhere in the garden on the way.

The Trees that Made the Wind

In summer when it was hot and still, Anthonyís mother sat in the orchard sewing on buttons, and patching little holes. Now and then she laid down her sewing and opened her pretty paper fan, and waved it through the air for a little while. When she did this, Anthony would stop in the middle of whatever he might be doing, trying to catch a pig, or throttling the big hen with his great affection, and would stare at his wonderful Mother who could make the wind with a motion of her hand and arm. Sometimes if he felt very hot, and the small drops trickled down is sticky face, he would run to her and say, "Make the wind on me, Mum!" And she did, and wiped his forehead and cheeks with her nice handkerchief, and took him on her knee and showed him the pictures on her fan. On one side a delicate branch of plum-blossom trailed from end to end. It stretched itself across the crinkled fan as still as the fruit tree branches over his head stretched themselves on the windless air. Presently the branches stirred a little; and as they stirred, a gentle wind moved among them. Anthony staird at the branches fanning the air, and said to his Mother, "The trees are making the wind;" and his Mother laughed and kissed him and stoked his head.

After this, whenever the trees moved their branches slowly or quickly, Anthony knew they were making the soft wind or the violent wind that came only with their movements. And on very hot still days, when he was playing alone, he would run to the nearest tree and say, "Fan me!" And when nothing happened, he turned away, thinking, "My Mother would."

But though he could not make the trees understand him, he often lay on hot days with half-closed eyes on one of the mill-stream islands, lay in a gold-green haze of light and heat, as still as sleep. Yet he knew he wasnís asleep. And presently in the swimming scenes beyond his eyelashes, Anthony saw the meadows and the copses full of delicate ladies waving their fans, the whitebeams and the aspens and the silver birches, walking on the hill-side and moving down the valley, leaning their heads together and whispering as they went. The haze of light and shade began to flicker, and a breath to pass over his forehead, and he knew that but for the trees no wind would be made.

But sometimes on roaring autumn nights they made too much of it, and Anthony could not sleep; and in the morning the valley would be strewn with their broken fans.

The magic in this pair of stories is in how well they capture the world as seen through a little child's eyes. Whether a promise made and seemingly broken, over an insignificant Silver New Nothing, which is quickly forgotten; or the mystery of what makes the wind blow - the stories in Kaleidoscope help us embrace the world again through childish eyes of wonder. Eleanor Farjeon had the gift of seeing through a child's eyes - all the more remarkable because - unlike those of us who may briefly experience again the world's simple wonders through our own young children's eyes - she never had children of her own. And along with that childish wonder is an innocence that seems lost today.

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