Five Children and It
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| 1 Beautiful Children
The house was about four kilometres from the station，but after only a minute or two the children began to ask，' Are we nearly there？'And every time they saw a house they said，' Oh， is this it？'But it never was. Then they came to the top of a hill， and there was a White house with a green garden and lots of fruit trees. ' Here we are！'Mother said.
Everyone hurried to get out of the carriage—— Robert，Anthea， Jane， Cyril， and Martha， the nursemaid， with the baby. But Mother did not hurry. The children ran round the house and all through the garden to see what there was. But Mother stood and watched the driver while he carried the boxes into the house.
The children loved the house. They knew immediately that they were going to be happy there. Mother did not like the house very much because it was old and there were no cup-boards. But it was deep in the country and after two years in London the children thought that it was wonderful. If you live in London and your family is not rich， you get bored because you cannot go to shops and theatres ，and people say，' Don't do this' and 'Don't go there. 'In the country you can go any-where and do anything.
The white house was on the hill， with a wood behind it and a gravel-pit on one side . It was at the gravel-pit， a week later，that the children found a fairy. Well， that was what it called itself. But it was different from other fairies.
It happened when Mother had to go and stay with Grand-mother，who was ill. Martha stayed with the children，of course. But the house was very quiet and empty. The children did not know what to do. Then Cyril said，' Let's go to the gravel-pit. '
The gravel-pit was very large， with grass and wild flowers round the sides at the top. When they got there， the children decided that they would go down into the pit to play in the sand.
' Let's dig a deep hole— perhaps we can get all the way down to Australia，'said Robert.
The others agreed and they all began to dig hard in the sand. But it was a very hot day. Baby went to sleep and Robert， Cyril， and Jane sat down to rest， but Anthea went on working on the hole.
Suddenly she screamed. ' Cyril！ Come here！ Quick！There's something alive！'she cried.
They all jumped up and hurried over to see what it was.
' It's got feet，'Anthea said. ' And fur. Don't hurt it. I know this sounds stupid， but it said something. '
' What did it say？' asked Cyril.
'It said，“You leave me alone. ”
The others just laughed， but the two boys began to move away more of the sand. Soon they could see that there really was something moving in the hole.
Suddenly a hard little voice cried，' Leave me alone！'
They all jumped back and no one spoke for a minute. Then Robert said，' But we want to see you. '
' Yes， I wish you'd come out，'Anthea said.
'Oh， well， if that's your wish，'the voice said， and the sand began to fly about everywhere. Then something brown and furry and fat fell out into the hole. ' I think I was asleep，'it said.
The children stood and looked at it. It really was very strange. It could move its eyes in and out on stalks， it had big ears and its body was fat and round and furry. Its legs and arms had soft fur all over them too， and it had hands and feet.
' What is it？' asked Jane. ' Shall we take it home？'
The thing turned its long eyes to look at her. ' Does she always say stupid things？'it said.
' She doesn't mean it，' Anthea said. ' Don't be afraid. We won't hurt you. '
The little thing was angry. ' Hurt me！ 'it cried. ' I'm not afraid of you！'
'Oh， don't be angry，'said Anthea kindly. ' Tell us who you are. We really don't know. '
'You don't know？'it said. ' Don't you know a Psammead when you see one？'
'A Sammyadd？ What's that？'Jane said .
' A sand-fairy， of course. Don't you know a sand-fairy when you see one？'
It looked very unhappy， and Jane said，' Of course！ I can see that you're a sand-fairy now. '
And Robert said，'Well， I didn't know that you were a Psammead， but I can see that you are something very wonder-ful. Please talk some more to us. '
The Psammead looked a little happier when it heard that，and it said，'Well，you can talk to me ，if you want to. Per- haps I'll answer you and perhaps I won't. Now saysomething. '
At first the children could not think of anything to say，but then Robert asked，' How long have you lived here？'
'Oh，thousands of years，' the Psammead answered.
The children waited， but the Psammead was silent.
' Please tell us more，' Robert said.
'Well， all right， then，'the Psammead said. ' There were lots of us then，' it went on. ' People sent their children out to look for Psammeads，and when they found us，we gave them a wish. '
'What happened to all the Psammeads， then？' Robert asked.
'Well，if they get wet，they get ill and they usually die， and that's what happened. Most of them got wet and died. And I'm not going to tell you another thing. '
' Oh，just one more question，please，'said Robert. ' Do you give wishes now？'
' You've had one，'said the Psammead. ' You wished to see me，and here I am. '
' Oh， please. Just one more，' Anthea cried.
' Well， all right， but be quick！I'm tired of you！'
It is very difficult to think of a really good wish， in just a second or two. Then Anthea remembered a wish of hers and Jane's. She knew that the boys wouldn't like it， but it was better than nothing.
' I wish we were all very， very beautiful，' she said.
The Psammead pushed out its long eyes and got bigger and fatter， and the children waited. Then it said，' I'm sorry. I haven't done this for a long time. I'll try again，butl can only do one wish a day for you. Do you agree to that？'
' Yes， oh yes！'the children cried.
' But remember， the wish is only for a day，'said the Psammead. ' When the sun goes down，everything goes back to what it was. '
The Psammead slowly got bigger， then suddenly went small again. ' That's all right！'it said. At once it turned and went back into the sand at the bottom of the hole.
The children stood there for a second， and then Anthea turned to speak to the others. But they were not there！ She was looking at three strangers— a girl with beautiful red hair and big blue eyes， and two very good-looking boys. Suddenly she understood. They had their wish. The strangers were Robert and Cyril and Jane—but now they were beautiful. Cyril's hair was golden now， and Robert's was black.
' I liked you better before！'Robert cried angrily to his brother and sisters. 'Jane's hair looks like carrots， and Cyril looks really stupid with long golden hair. '
They went to find Baby， but he was just the same as he was before.
' Perhaps it's because he's young. He can't have wishes. We'll have to remember that next time，'Anthea said，and she held out her arms to him. But Baby's mouth turned down at the corners and then he began to cry loudly. He did not know them！
It took an hour to stop him crying and then， very tired and cross， they took him home. Martha， Baby's nursemaid， was waiting at the front door. She took Baby from them quickly：
' Where are the others？'she asked. 'And who are you？'
' we're us，of course，' Robert said. ' You don't know us be-cause we're beautiful. '
' And we're very hungry，'said Cyril，'and we want our lunch， please. '
' Go away！'Martha screamed. ' Or I'll send for the police，'and she closed the door in their faces.
The children were very hungry by then， and they tried three times to get into the house—but Martha would not let them in. After a while they went and sat at the bottom of the garden to wait for the sun to go down. 'The wish will finish then， won't it？'Jane said.
But the others didn't answer because no one was really sure.
It was a terrible afternoon. They had no lunch， no tea， and they were tired， angry and afraid. It's true that they were all very beautiful，but that's not a lot of help when you'rs unhappy. In the end they fell asleep.
It was nearly dark when they woke up. Anthea was the first to wake up and she looked at the others. They were no longer very beautiful. Everything was all right again. Happily， they all went back to the house. Of course， Martha was angry.
' Where have you been all day？'she cried.
It is not easy to explain a Psammead to an angry nursemaid，so the children didn't try.
'We met some beautiful children and we couldn't get away from them until it was nearly dark，'Anthea said. ' They were terrible， and we never want to see them again. '
And they never have.
| 1 漂亮的孩子
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