The Magic Box
A Story for Holly 1994 / A Story for Sophie 2006 Once upon a time there was a little girl called Mary. She was six years old. Mary lived in a little cottage on the cliff tops overlooking the sea. She lived there with her mother Lucy and her little dog called Rags.
Mary’s father was a sailor, captain of his ship. Sometimes he was away at sea for many months. Mary missed him very much but it was wonderful when he came home, he had such exciting adventures to tell her and of course a present or two.
Mary would sit on her Daddy’s knee for hours listening to tales about all the people he had met and all the places he had been to. She wanted to be a sailor too when she grew up.
Her mother worried sometimes that Mary may be lonely with just a dog for company and thier nearest neighbour was a few miles away. But Mary wasn’t lonely. Rags was her best friend and they went everywhere together; even into bed if mummy didn’t catch them.
Daddy was due home today and Mary was so excited she couldn’t concentrate on her work at school. ‘Mary, Mary, are you listening to me? You are in a dream today’, Said Mrs Jenkins, her teacher.
Mary jumped and said ‘but my Daddies coming home Today’ beaming all over her face.
‘In that case we will forgive you’, said Mrs Jenkins and smiled back.
Just another hour to go and daddy would be home. Mary kept running down the path to watch for the taxi. She could here it coming and trembled with excitement. ‘Mummy, Mummy, he’s here, he’s here’.
The taxi pulled up at the gate and Joe climbed out, dropped his bags and opened his arms wide. ‘Well then, don’t I get a hug from my two best girls?’ They both flew at him and he gave them such a bear hug they squealed with laughter. Joe was a very big man, with a moustache and beard and lovely twinkling blue eyes.
After their meal Joe opened a bag which was full of presents; a silk scarf and a handbag for Lucy, and a doll for Mary and lots of other smaller presents.
‘Oh’ said Joe, ‘I almost forgot, there is a special present for you Mary, from Foo Changs in Hong Kong’. Mary ripped open the parcel as quick as she could. It was a little black box and on the lid there were strange carvings. When Mary opened it she smiled with delight. It was a music box with a little Chinese girl dancing round and round. ‘Oh Daddy thank you, it’s beautiful, I will keep it safe always’.
Then Joe told them how he came by the box. He was browsing around the little back streets of Hong Kong and he came upon Foo Chong’s shop. He went inside to the tinkling of the chimes hung on the door. The shop was cluttered and dusty.
Joe was just about to change his mind and leave when a voice said ‘greetings honourable captain, how may I be of service to you’.
Joe looked back and there behind a small counter was a tiny Chinese man. He had a wide straw hat tied under his chin and a long thin moustache which reached down to his chest. Both his hands were tucked under his wide sleeves. ‘
‘Well’ said Joe, ‘I was really looking for something a bit special for my little daughter. She would love to travel with me and so I thought the next best thing would be a little momento from all the places I visit’.
Foo Chang gave a little nod of understanding. ‘One moment please I have “vely” good “pleasant” for daughter’ and he shuffled away behind a beaded curtain. A few minutes later he returned with a small black box. It didn’t look very special to Joe but he didn’t have much time left to look around so he decided to take it.
‘Believe Foo Chang’, said the Chinese man, ‘daughter will have hours of pleasure with box. Good day to you honourable captain and may the elements be kind to you’ and he gave a small bow. Joe said goodbye and made his way back to the ship.
After the story of Foo Chang Mary was very tired and went up to bed. She opened her music box and let it play whilst she was getting undressed, but at a certain place it kept getting stuck and Mary peered inside. She poked around with her finger and she could feel something wedged inside. She turned the box upside down and out fell a tiny little book. Mary picked it up and opened it.
Then something strange happened. Out of the corner of her eye she saw something roll out of the book and land with a plop of the rug. Then before Mary’s very eyes it grew and grew. It turned out to be a little chubby old lady. She was dressed all in blue with a pink hat and a pink apron and spectacles on the end of her nose.
Mary was speechless. ‘Well don’t stand there gawking child, dust me down’ said the little old lady. Mary rushed forward and dusted her down ‘You are Captain Joe’s child aren’t you. Mary isn’t it’. Mary nodded . ‘I expect you want to know who I am. Well I’m Mother Crosspatch your fairy godmother. I’m not always cross, it’s just that being in that book I get cramp and get very dusty and it makes me sneeze. Ah… Ah… Ah…Atisssue, Atissue, Atisssue’. Mother Crosspatch adjusted her hat and spectacles.
Meanwhile, poor Rags had disappeared under the bed. ‘Whatever is wrong with that animal’, said Mother Crosspatch.
I think you scared him” said Mary.
‘Tut Tut, how silly. Does he have a name, child’
‘Yes’ said Mary, ‘he’s called Rags’.
Mother Crosspatch smiled. ‘Good name, Good name’.
Mary sighed, ‘I know; whatever we do he always looks scruffy’’.
‘Come along now we’re wasting time, where did you want to go first?
‘I don’t understand’ said Mary
‘Oh, of course, I haven’t explained . Well I am here to take you on some adventures’.
‘Adventures?’ said Mary.
‘Yes, now let’s make a start. Close your eyes and point to a place on this magic map and we will be there in two ticks’.
Then, mother Crosspatch took a wand from her apron pocket and pointed towards the window and out of the wand flowed a stardust trail as far as you could see. ‘Step onto the trail quickly before it disappears’ said Mother Crosspatch.
‘Can we take Rags’ said Mary. Before she could get an answer Rags jumped in to Mary’s arms and off they zoomed out of sight.
They landed all of a heap, tangled up together. ‘Goodness me my poor old bones’ said Mother Crosspatch. ‘Are you alright Mary?’
‘I think so but oh I’ve got my nighty on’ said Mary.
No matter, we are quite invisible, child; except Rags of course. Mary just stared. They had landed right in the middle of an Indian village.
‘Oh dear I’m afraid something has gone wrong. We have gone back into the past’ said Mother Crosspatch. We will have a quick look round and then head back home.
Just then the flap of a nearby tent opened and out stepped a tall red Indian. He looked very fierce and important, with feathers in his hair and a tomahawk in his hand. It was then that he noticed Rags (remember, the other two were invisible). In her haste Mother Crosspatch dropped her wand and the Indian stepped right on to it.
‘We can’t get home without the wand, Mary.’ Whispered Mother Crosspatch.
But Mary had a plan. ‘Attack boy, Attack’ she shouted to Rags and the dog nipped the man’s ankle. As soon as he lifted his foot Rags grabbed the wand and dropped it at Mary’s feet. The poor Indian was howling in pain and terrified when he saw Rags in mid air. You see, he couldn’t see Mary holding him.
‘Let’s get home without delay’ said Mother Crosspatch and she sent the stardust trail ahead again. A few moments later they landed safe and sound in Mary’s room. ‘Phew, that was a close shave. Tomorrow night we will choose a definite place to go, Mary’.
‘I would love to go to Australia’ said Mary.
‘So you shall’ said Mother Crosspatch, ‘Australia it shall be. Now pop into bed quickly child, dream on’, and with that she disappeared back iinto the book and it closed shut.
Mary snuggled down into the bed with Rags at her side and when Lucy and Joe peeped in later she had her arms around Rags and a secret smile on her face.
Grandma Josie (2006)