The Extra Day/Chapter III
There was a man named Jinks. In him was neither fancy, imagination, nor a sign of wonder, and so he--died.
But, though he appears in this chapter, he disappears again so quickly that his being mentioned in a sentence all by himself should not lead any one astray. Jinks made a false entry, as it were. The children crossed him out at once. He became illegible. For the trio had their likes and dislikes; they resented liberties being taken with them. Also, when there was no one to tell them stories, they were quite able to amuse themselves. It was the inactive yet omnipotent Maria who brought about indirectly the obliteration of Mr. Jinks.
And it came about as follows:
Maria was a podgy child of marked individuality. It was said that she was seven years old, but she declared that eight was the figure, because some uncle or other had explained, "you're in your eighth year." Wandering uncles are troublesome in this kind of way. Every time her age was mentioned she corrected the informant. She had a trick of moving her eyes without moving her head, as though the round face was difficult to turn; but her big blue eyes slipped round without the least trouble, as though oiled. The performance gave her the sly and knowing aspect of a goblin, but she had no objection to that, for it saved her trouble, and to save herself trouble--according to nurses, Authorities, and the like--was her sole object in existence.
Yet this seemed a mistaken view of the child. It was not so much that she did not move unnecessarily as that it was not necessary for her to move at all, since she invariably found herself in the middle of whatever was going on. While life bustled anxiously about her, hurrying to accomplish various ends, she remained calm and contented at the centre, completely satisfied, mistress of it all. And her face was symbolic of her entire being; whereas so many faces seem unfinished, hers was complete--globular like the heavenly bodies, circular like the sun, arms and legs unnecessary. The best of everything came to her because she did not run after it. There was no hurry. Time did not worry her. Circular and self-sustaining, she already seemed to dwell in Eternity.
"And this little person," one of these inquisitive, interfering visitors would ask, smiling fatuously; "how old is she, I wonder?"
"Seven," was the answer of the Authority in charge.
Maria's eyes rolled sideways, and a little upwards. She looked at the foolish questioner; the Authority who had answered was not worth a glance.
"No," she said flatly, with sublime defiance, "I'm more. I'm in my eighth year, you see."
And the visitor, smiling that pleasant smile that makes children distrust, even dislike them, and probably venturing to pinch her cheek or pat her on the shoulder into the bargain, accepted the situation with another type of smile--the Smile-that-children-expect. As a matter of fact, children hate it. They see through its artificial humbug easily. They prefer a solemn and unsmiling face invariably. It's the latter that produces chocolates and sudden presents; it's the stern-faced sort that play hide-and-seek or stand on their heads. The Smilers are bored at heart. They mean to escape at the first opportunity. And the children never catch their sleeves or coattails to prevent them going.
"So you're in your eighth year, are you?" this Smiler chuckled with a foolish grin. He patted her cheek kindly. "Why, you're almost a grown-up person. You'll be going to dinner-parties soon." And he smiled again. Maria stood motionless and patient. Her eyes gazed straight before her. Her podgy face remained expressionless as dough.
"Answer the kind gentleman," said the Authority reprovingly.
Maria did not budge. A finger and thumb, both dirty, rolled a portion of her pinafore into a pointed thing like a string, distinctly black. She waited for the visitor to withdraw. But this particular visitor did not withdraw.
"I knew a little girl--" he began, with a condescending grin that meant that her rejection of his advances had offended him, "a little girl of about your age, who--"
But the remainder of the rebuke-concealed-in-a-story was heard only by the Authority. For Maria, relentless and unhumbugged, merely walked away. In the hall she discovered Tim, discreetly hiding. "What's he come for?" the brother inquired promptly, jerking his thumb towards the hall.
Maria's eyes just looked at him.
"To see Mother, I suppose," he answered himself, accustomed to his sister's goblin manners, "and talk about missions and subshkiptions, and all that. Did he give you anything?"
"Did he call us bonny little ones?" His face mentioned that he could kill if necessary, or if his sister's honour required it.
"He didn't say it."
"Lucky for him," exclaimed Tim gallantly, rubbing his nose with the palm of his hand and snorting loudly. "What did he say, then--the old Smiler?"
"He said," replied Maria, moving her head as well as her eyes, "that I wasn't really old, and that he knew another little girl who was nicer than me, and always told the truth, and--"
"Oh, come on," cried Tim, impatiently interrupting. "My trains are going in the schoolroom, and I want a driver for an accident. We'll put the Smiler in the luggage van, and he'll get smashed in the collision, and all the wheels will go over his head. Then he'll find out how old you really are. We'll fairly smash him."
They disappeared. Judy, who was reading a book on the Apocalypse, in a corner of the room, looked up a moment as they entered.
"What's up?" she asked, her mind a little dazed by the change of focus from stars, scarlet women, white horses, and mysterious "Voices," to dull practical details of everyday existence. "What's on?" she repeated.
"Trains," replied Tim. "We're going to have an accident and kill a man dead."
"What's he done?" she inquired.
"Humbugged Maria with a lot of stuff--and gave her nothing--and didn't believe a single word she told him."
Judy glanced without much interest at the railway laid out upon the floor, murmured "Oh, I see," and resumed her reading of the wonderful book she had purloined from the top shelf of a neglected bookcase outside the gun-room. It absorbed her. She loved the tremendous words, the atmosphere of marvel and disaster, and especially the constant suggestion that the end of the world was near. Antichrist she simply adored. No other hero in any book she knew came near him.
"Come and help," urged Tim, picking up an engine that lay upon its side. "Come on."
"No, thanks. I've got an Apocalypse. It's simply frightfully exciting."
"Shall we break both legs?" asked Maria blandly, "or just his neck?"
"Neck," said Tim briefly. "Only they must find the heart beneath the rubbish of the luggage van."
Judy looked up in spite of herself. "Who is it?" she inquired, with an air of weighing conflicting interests.
"Mr. Jinks." It was Maria who supplied the information.
"But he's Daddy's offiss-partner man," Judy objected, though without much vim or heat.
Maria did not answer. Her eyes were glued upon the other engine.
"All black and burnt and--full of the very horridest diseases," put in Tim, referring to the heart of the destroyed Mr. Jinks beneath the engine.
He glanced up enticingly at his elder sister, whom he longed to draw into the vindictive holocaust.
"He said things to Maria," he explained persuasively, "and it's not the first time either. Last Sunday he called me 'his little man,' and he's never given me a single thing since ever I can remember, years and years ago."
Then Judy remembered that he invariably kissed her on both cheeks as though she was a silly little child.
"Oh, that man!" she exclaimed, realising fully now the enormities he had committed. She appeared to hesitate a moment. Then she flung down her Apocalypse suddenly. "Put him on a scarlet horse," she cried, "pretend he's the Beast, and I'll come."
Maria's blue eyes wheeled half a circle towards Tim. She did not move her head. It signified agreement. Tim knew. Only her consent, as the insulted party, was necessary before he could approve.
"All right," he cried to Judy. "We'll put him in a special carriage with his horse, and I'll make out a label for the window, so that every one will know." He went over to the table and wrote "BEAST" in capital letters on a half-sheet of paper. The cumbersome quill pen made two spongy blots.
"It's the end of the world really at the same time," decided Judy, to a chorus of general approval, "not only the end of Mr. Jinks." She liked her horrors on a proper scale.
And the railway line was quickly laid across the room from the window to the wall. The lamps of oil on both engines were lit. The trains faced one another. Mr. Jinks and his scarlet horse thought themselves quite safe in their special carriage, unaware that it was labelled "Beast" with a label that overlapped the roof and hid all view of the landscape through the windows on one side. Apparently they slept in opposite corners, with full consciousness of complete security. Mr. Jinks was tucked up with woolly rugs, and a newspaper lay across his knee. The scarlet horse had its head in a bag of oats, and its bridle was fastened to the luggage rack above. Both were supplied with iron foot-warmers. There was a fearful fog; and the train was going at a TREMENDOUS pace.
So was the other train. They approached, they banged, they smashed to atoms. It was the most appalling collision that had ever been heard of, and the Guard and Engine-Driver, as well as the Ticket-Collectors and Directors of the Company, were all executed by the Government the very next day from gallows that an angry London built in half an hour on the top of St. Paul's Cathedral dome.
It took place between the footstool and the fireplace in the thickest fog that England had ever known. And the horrid black heart of Mr. Jinks was discovered beneath the wreckage of a special carriage next to the luggage van. It was simply black as coal and very nasty indeed. The little boy who found it was a porter's son, whose mother was so poor that she took in washing for members of Parliament, who paid their bills irregularly because they were very busy governing Ireland. He knew it was a cinder, but did not discover it was a heart until he showed it to his mother, and his mother said it was far too black to wash.
The accident to Mr. Jinks, therefore, was a complete success. The butler helped with the mending of the engine, and Maria informed at least one Authority, "We do not know Mr. Jinks. We have other friends."
"But, remember," said Judy, "we mustn't mention it to Daddy, because Mr. Jinks is his partner-in-the-offiss."
"Was," said Tim. The remains they decided to send to what they called the "Hospital for Parilysed Ineebrits with Incurable Afflictions of the Heart."