E. F. (Edward Frederic) Benson.

David Blaze and the blue door online

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B 4 IDl 4SD






E.F. B e nson

V —










Printed in the United States of America


He was going to Egypt and was having a spider
web painted on his head to keep the flies
OFF Frontispiece


David finds the Blue Door 21

David shakes the bottle at the cats .... 27

The game-cupboard comes to life 39

David calls on Miss Muffet 49

The spider chases Miss Muffet 55

David finds the Mint-man in the bank ... 61

The recovering of Uncle Popacatapetl ... 67

The telegram rescues Uncle P. from the Mint-
man 83

David dances with the giraffe 93

David and the Rhyme family 105

Miss Bones sitting on David's thumb .... 107

David and the cow porter on the pile of luggage 113

David uses the telephone in the cow porter's

TAIL 119

The bald-headed men in the hairdresser's get up
TO catch the train 133

How Canon and Mrs. Rook quarreled over a






David does the lark-flight 149

The birds carry up David to get his flying certif-
icate 151

David rescues the Brigadier-General . . . 163

Field-Marshal David inspects his guard of


David and the trout 187

Noah pursues David 195

David in the Registry office 205

David runs for home 211

David reaches home 215





Ever since he was four years old, and had
begun to think seriously, as a boy should, David
Blaize had been aware that there was a real world
lying somewhere just below the ordinary old
thing in which his father and mother and nurse
and the rest of the fast-asleep grown-up people
lived. Boys began to get drowsy, he knew, about
the time that they were ten, though they might
still have occasional waking moments, and soon
after that they went sound asleep, and lost all
chance of ever seeing the real world. If you
asked grown-ups some tremendously important
questions, such as "Why do the leaves fall oiF
the trees when there is glass on the lake?" as



likely as not they would begin talking in their
sleep about frost and sap, just as if that had got
anything to do with the real reason. Or they
might point out that it wasn't real glass on the
lake, but ice, and, if they were more than usually
sound asleep, take a piece of the lake-glass and
let you hold it in your fingers till it became water.
That was to show you that what you had called
glass was really frozen water, another word for
which was ice. They thought that it was very
wonderful of them to explain it all so nicely, and
tell you at great length that real glass did not
become water if you held it in your fingers, which
you must remember to wash before dinner. Per-
haps they would take you to the nursery window
when you came in from your walk, and encourage
you to put your finger on the pane in order to
see that glass did not become water. This sort
of thing would make David impatient, and he
asked, "Then why don't you put ice in the win-
dow, and then you could boil it for tea in the
kettle?" And if his nurse wanted to go to sleep
again, she would say, "Now you're talking non-
sense, Master David."



Now that was the ridiculous thing! Of course
he was talking nonsense just to humour Nannie.
He was helping her with her nonsense about the
difference between ice and glass. He had been
wanting to talk sense all the time, and learn
something about the real world, in which the fish
put a glass roof on their house for the winter as
soon as they had collected enough red fire-leaves
to keep them warm until the hot weather came
round again. That might not be the precise way
in which it happened, but it was something of
that sort. Instead of pinching herself awake,
poor sleepy Nannie went babbling on about ice
and glass and sap and spring, in a way that was
truly tedious and quite beside the real point.

Yet when the sleepy things tried to awake to
the real world, they could not get their grown-up
dreams out of their heads. Sometimes his mother
would come up to the nursery before he went to
bed, and take him on her knee, which was a soft,
comfortable place, and tell him a story, which
often began quite well and seriously. David al-
ways asked that the electric light should be put
out first, because then the flame-cats would come


out of their holes, and play puss-in-the-corner all
over the nursery. They always helped the story
to seem true and serious, for they were real, only
the electric light must be put out first, because
it gave them shocks, and naturally you could not
play when you were being shocked. He knew
that to be true even in the sleepy grown-up world,
because once when his mother was playing with
him, he had put out his tongue at Nannie when
she came to say it was bed-time, and his mother
couldn't play any more, because she was shocked.
That was why the flame-cats must have the elec-
tric light put out.

Well, there were the flame-cats dancing
(sometimes they had a ball instead of puss-in-the-
corner), and here was he very comfortable and
wide-awake, and sometimes, as I have said, the
story began quite well, with an air of truth and
reality about it. There was a little green man
with whiskers who lived in the pear-tree, and
washed his hands with Pears' soap. Or there
was a red-faced old woman who lived in the ap-
ple-tree, and kept a sharp look-out for dumplings
coming round the corner, for these were hex


deadliest enemies, and pulled pieces off her, and
made them into apple-dumplings. Sometimes
they pulled her nose off when they caught her,
or a finger or two, which never grew again till
next spring, and often, if spring was late, from
going to sleep again after Nannie Equinox had
called him, there was practically nothing left of
her. So when the regiment of dumplings came
round the corner. Grandmamma Apple-tree hid
in the grass, and pretended she was Mr. Winfall,
the tailor, who had made David's new sailor
clothes. Then Colonel Dumpling would stumble
over her, and sometimes he did not know whether
she was Grandmamma Apple-tree or Mr. Win-
fall. So he began very politely, like a subscrip-
tion paper with a half-penny stamp in case it
proved to be Mr. Winfall, who had the habit of
eating Colonel Dumpling whenever he saw him,
and often some privates as well, cleared his throat
and said in his best suetty voice:

**Dear Sir or Madam."

He never got further than that because, if it
proved to be Mr. Winfall, Mr. Winfall ate him
whether he had an apple inside or not, and if it


was Grandmamma Apple-tree, she was so in-
dignant, as every proper female should be at
being taken for a man, that she began abusing
Colonel Dumpling in a red voice, if she was ripe,
and a green one if she wasn't and gave the whole
show away. So she lost an arm or a leg if there
were many people in the house, or a finger or two
if father and mother were alone, and Colonel
Dimipling said to his regiment:

"Attention! Slow fatigue March! Right-
about Kitchen Turn!"

Now all this sort of thing was clearly true, and
belonged to the real world, but too often, unfor-
tunately, David's mother got grown-up and
sleepy again, and began talking the most dread-
ful nonsense. A little girl with golden hair and
blue eyes made her unwelcome presence known
by singing, or a baby would be found underneath
a gooseberry bush (David always hoped that it
got frightfully pricked), or a sweet lovely fairy
would fly in, just when everything was getting
on so nicely, and make rubbish out of it. He was
too polite to let his mother know how boring she
had become, and so whenever the golden-haired


little girl or the sweet fairy appeared, he would
try to go on with Colonel Dumpling's part of the
story in his own mind, or watch the flame-cats
getting tired as the fire burned low.

Nannie was not so good at stories, but she had
flashes of sense, as when, one night, when David
preferred to sit up in bed instead of lying down
to go to sleep, she hinted that a black man might
possibly come down the chimney, unless he put
his head properly on the pillow. David knew
that it was not likely, for it would have to be a
very small man indeed, and fireproof, but there
was some glimmering of a real idea in it. So he
was not the least frightened, and asked, with in-
terest, if he would be like bacon or beef before
he got through the fire. This exploded any sense
there might have been in Nannie's original idea
at once, because she threatened to go downstairs
and tell his mother if he wouldn't lie down. A
very poor ending to the black man coming down
the chimney! Nannie clearly knew nothing about
him really if she so quickly got sleepy and talked
about fetching his mother. Nobody grown-up
ever woke to the real world for more than a


minute or two at a time, except perhaps his
father, who spent so many hours in a big room
called "The Laboratory." There he seemed to
dabble in realities, for he could put a fragment of
something on the water, and it began to blaze,
or he could mix a powder out of certain bottles,
and when it was lit it burned with so red a flame
that his father looked as if he was illuminated
inside like a turnip-ghost. Or he could, by
another mixture, produce a smell that he said
was "Tincture of Rotten Eggs," and was really
made of the ghosts of bad eggs ground up and
exorcised. But then, poor man, he got grown-up,
and when, subsequently, David wanted to know
what the ghosts of bad eggs looked like when
they were exorcised, he muttered in his sleep
something about sulphuretted hydrogen.

David was now just "turned six," as Nannie
expressed it, and knew that he had only about
four years more in front of him before he began
to lapse into that drowsy state of grown-uppish-
ness which begins when boys are ten or there-
abouts, and lasts, getting worse and worse, till


they are twenty or seventy or anything else. If
he was going to find the real world of which he
caught glimpses now and then, he must do so
without losing much time. There was probably
a door into it, and for a long time he had hoped
that it was the door in the ground by the lake.
But one day he had found that door open, and
it was an awful disappointment to see that it only
contained a tap and a round opening, to which
presently the gardener fixed a long curly pipe.
When he turned the tap, the pipe gave some
jolly chuckling noises, and began to stream with
water at its far end. That was very delightful,
and consoled David a little for the disappoint-

Then one night he had a clue. He had just
lain down in his bed, when he heard a door be-
ginning to behave as doors do when they think
they are quite alone, and nobody is looking.
Then, as you know, they unlatch themselves, and
begin walking to and fro on their hinges, hitting
themselves against their frames. This often hap-
pened to the nursery door when he came down-
stairs in the morning after he was quite sure he


had shut it. His mother therefore sent him up
to shut it again, and sure enough the door was
always open, having undone itself to go for a
walk on its hinges. But on this night he thought
that the sound of the door came from under his
pillow, but he very carelessly fell asleep just as
he was listening in order to make sure, and the
next thing he knew was that Nannie was telling
him it was morning. Again, on the very next
night he had only just put his head on the pillow
when the door began banging. It sounded muf-
fled, and there was no doubt this time that it came
from under his pillow. He sat up in bed, broad
awake, and pulled his pillow away. By the light
of the flame-cats who were dancing to-night, he
could see the smooth white surface of his bolster,
but, alas, there was no door there.

David was now quite sure that somewhere un-
der his pillow was the door he was looking for.
One time he had allowed himself to go to sleep
before finding it, and the other time he had got
too much awake. So on the third night he took
the pin-partridge to bed with him, in the hope
that it would keep him just awake enoughj by


pricking him with the head of its pin-leg. The
pin-partridge had, of course, come out of Noah's
Ark and in the course of some terrible adventures
had lost a leg. So Nannie had taken a pin, and
driven it into the stump, so that it could stand
again. The pin-leg was rather longer than the


wooden one, which made the partridge lean
a little to one side, as if it was listening to the
agreeable conversation of the animal next it.

Sure enough, on this third night, David had
only just lain down, with the pin-partridge in
one hand, and the pin ready to scratch his leg to


keep him just awake enough, when the door be-
gan banging again, just below his pillow. He
listened a little while, pressing the pin-head
against his calf so that it hurt a little, but not
enough to wake him up hopelessly, and moved his
head about till he was sure that his ear was di-
rectly above the door. Then very quietly he
pushed his pillow aside, and there in the middle
of his bolster was a beautiful shining blue door
with a gold handle, swinging gently to and fro,
as if it was alone. He got up, pushed it open and
entered. For fear of some dreadful misfortune
happening, like finding his mother on the other
side of it, who might send him back to shut it, he
closed it very carefully and softly. He found
that there was a key hanging up on the wall
beside it, and to his great joy it fitted the keyhole.
He locked it, and put the key back on its nail,
so that when he came back he could let himself
out, and in the meantime nobody could possibly
reach him.




The passage into which the blue door opened was
very like the nursery passage at home, and it
was certainly night, because the flame-cats were
dancing on the walls, which only happened after
dark. Yet there was no fire burning anywhere,
which was rather puzzling, but soon David saw
that these were real cats, not just the sort of un-
real ones which demanded a fire to make them
dance at all. Some were red, some were yellow,
some were emerald green with purple patches,
and instead of having a band or a piano to dance
to, they all squealed and purred and growled,
making such a noise that David could not hear
himself speak. So he stamped his foot and said
"Shoo!" at which the dance suddenly came to an
end, and all the cats sat down, put one hind-leg
in the air, and began licking themselves.


"If you please/' said David, "will you tell me
where to go next?"

Every cat stopped licking itself, and looked at
him. Some cat behind him said:

*'Lor! it's the boy from the nursery."

David turned round. All the cats had begun
licking themselves again, except a large tabby,
only instead of being black and brown, it was
the colour of apricot jam and poppies.

"Was it you who spoke?" said David.

"Set to partners!" said the tabby, and they all
began dancing again.

"Shoo, you silly things," said David, stamping
again. "I don't want to stop your dancing, ex-
cept just to be told where I'm to go, and what
I'm to do if I'm hungry.'*

The dancing stopped again.

"There is a pot of mouse-marmalade some-
where," said the tabby, "only you mustn't take
more than a very little bit. It's got to last till

"But I don't like the mouse-marmalade," said



*'I never said you did," said the tabby.
"Where's the cook?"

"Gone to buy some new whiskers," said an-
other. "She put them too close to the fire, which
accounts for the smell of burning."

"Then all that can be done is to set to partners,
and hope for the best," said the tabby.

"If any one dances again," said David, "before
you tell me the way, and where I shall find a shop
with some proper food in it, not mousey, I shall
turn on the electric light."

"Fiddle-de-dee!" said the tabby, and they all
began singing

"Hey diddle-diddle
The cat and the fiddle"

at the top of their voices.

David was getting vexed with them all, and
he looked about for the electric light. But there
were no switches by the door, as there ought to
have been, but only a row of bottles which he
knew came out of his father's laboratory. But
the stopper in one of them was loose, and a fizzing
noise came out of it. He listened to it a minute,


with his ear close to it, and heard it whispering,
''It's me! it's me! it's me!"

"And when he's got it, he doesn't know what
to do with it!" said the tabby contemptuously.

David hadn't the slightest idea. He was only
sure that the bottle had something to do with
the electric light, and he took it up and began
shaking it, as Nannie did to his medicine bottle.
To his great delight, he saw that, as he shook it,
the cats grew fainter and fainter, and the passage
lighter and lighter.

The tabby spoke to him in a tremulous voice.

"You're shocking us frightfully," she said.
"Please, don't. You may have all the mouse-
marmalade as soon as the cook comes back with
her whiskers. She's been gone a long time. And
if you don't like it, you really know where every-
thing else is. There's the garden outside, and
then the lake, and then the village. It's all just
as usual, except that everything is real here. But
whatever you do, don't shock us any more."

The passage had grown quite bright by now
and there were only a few of the very strongest
cats left. So, as he was a kind boy, he put down


the bottle again, which began fizzing and whisper-

"Pleased to have met you: pleased to have met
you : pleased to have met you."


"I don't know why you couldn't have told me
that at first," said David to the tabby.

"Nor do I. It was my poor head. The dan-
cing gets into it, and makes it turn round and
square, one after the other. May we go on?"

The cats began to recover as he stopped
shaking the bottle, and he walked on round the


corner where the game cupboard stood against
the wall. All the games were kept there, the
Noah's Ark, and the spillikins, and the Badmin-
ton, and the Happy Families, and the oak-bricks,
and the lead soldiers; and, as usual, the door of
it was slightly open, because, when all the games
were put away, even Nannie could not shut it
tight. To-night there was an extraordinary stir
going on in it, as if everything was slipping about
inside, and, as David paused to see what was hap^
pening, a couple of marbles rolled out. But,
instead of stopping on the carpet, they continued
rolling faster and faster, and he heard them hop-
ping downstairs in the direction of the garden

*'I don't want to play games just yet," he said
to himself, "when there is so much to explore,
but I must see what they are doing."

He opened the door a little wider, and heard
an encouraging voice, which he knew must be
Noah's, come from inside.

"That's right," it said; "now we can see what
We're doing. Is my ulster buttoned properly


this time, missus? Last night, when you buttoned
it for me, you did it wrong, you did, and I caught
cold in my ankle, I did. It's been sneezing all
day, it has."

"I never saw such trouble as you men are,"
said Mrs. Noah. "Get up, you silly, and don't
sit on Shem's hat. I've been looking for it every-

David stooped down and looked in. He had
a sort of idea that he was invisible, and wouldn't
disturb anybody. There was the ark, with all its
windows open, and the family were dressing. It
consisted of two compartments, in the second of
which lived the animals, one on the top of each
other right up to the roof. There was no door
in it, but the roof lifted oiF. At present it was
tightly closed and latched, and confused noises
of lions roaring and elephants trumpeting and
cows mooing, dogs barking, and birds singing
came from inside. Sometimes there was ordinary
talk too, for the animals had all learned English
from David as well as knowing their own animal
tongue, and the Indian elephant spoke Hindu-
stanee in addition. He was slim and light blue,


and was known as the "Elegant Elephant," in
contrast to a stout black one who never spoke
at all. All this David thought that he and Nan-
nie had made up, but now he knew that it was
perfectly true. And he stood waiting to see what
would happen next.

The hubbub increased.

"If that great lamb would get oif my chest,"
said the elegant elephant, "I should be able to
get up. Why don't they come and open the roof?"

"Not time yet," said the cow. "The family are
still dressing. But it's a tight fit to-night. I'm
glad the pin-partridge isn't here scratching us

"Where's it gone?" said the elephant.

"David took it to bed; more fool he," said the

"He couldn't be much more of a fool than he
is," grunted the pig. "He knows nothing about
us really."

At this moment David heard an irregular kind
of hopping noise coming down the passage, and,
just as he turned to look, the pin-partridge ran


between his legs. It flew on to the roof of the
ark, and began pecking at it.

"Let me in," it shouted. "I beheve it's the first
of September. What cads you fellows are not
to let me in!"

"You always think it's the first of September,"
said the cow. "Now look at me; I'm milked every
day, which must hurt me much more than being
shot once."

"Not if it's properly done," said the partridge.
"I know lots of cows who like it."

"But it's improperly done," said the cow.
"David knows less about milking than anybody
since the flood. You wait till I catch him alone,
and see if I can't teach him something about

This sounded a very awful threat, and David,
who knew that it was best to take cows as well as
bulls by the horns, determined on a bold policy.

"If I hear one word more about tossing, I
shan't let any of you out," he said.

There was dead silence.

"Who's that?" said the cow in a trembling
voice, for she was a coward as well as a cow.


*'It'sme!" said David.

There was a confused whispering within.

*'We can't stop here all night."

"Say you won't toss him."

"You can't anyhow, because your horns are
both broken."

"Less noise in there," said Noah suddenly,
from the next compartment.

The cow began whimpering.

"I'm a poor old woman," she said, "and every-
body's very hard on me, considering the milk and
butter I've given you."

"Chalk and water and margarine," said the
pin-partridge, who had been listening with his
ear to the roof. "Do say you won't toss him. ]
can't see him, but he's somewhere close to me."

"Very well, I won't toss him. Open the roof,

David was not sure that Noah would like this,
as he was the ark-master, but he felt that his
having said that he would keep the roof shut
unless the cow promised, meant that he would
open it if she did, and so he lifted the roof about
an inch.



At that moment Noah's head appeared. He
was standing on Shem's head, who was standing
on Ham's head, who was standing on Japheth's
head, who was standing on his mother's head.
They always came out of their room in this way,
partly in order to get plenty of practice in case
of fire, and partly because they couldn't be cer-
tain that the flood had gone down, and were
afraid that if they opened the door, which is the
usual way of leaving a room, the water might
come in. When Noah had climbed on to the
top of the wall, he pulled Shem after him, who
pulled Ham, who pulled Japheth, who pulled
Mrs. Noah, and there they all stood like a row
of sparrows on a telegraph wire, balancing them-
selves with great difficulty.

"Who's been meddhng with my roof?" asked
Noah, in an angry voice. "I believe it's that pin-

The pin-partridge trembled so violently at this
that he fell off the roof altogether, quite forget-
ting that he could fly. But the moment he

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Online LibraryE. F. (Edward Frederic) BensonDavid Blaze and the blue door → online text (page 1 of 8)