Popovers had a visitor. He lived in a hand-painted yellow box and the lid of the box was held securely with a neat little buckle. Looking at the box, you would never dream of a visitor inside. You’ll probably think it’s a doll’s chest or a box that holds marbles or beads.
But as soon as I unlocked – the back cover flew off and a pain! Even the visitor jumped in a way that would give anyone a head start.
The Popovers were stunned, every single one. She even startles Elaine, though she has seen Jack jump out of his box many times before. So the visitor’s name was Jack-in-the-Box, and the most amusing visitor the Popover family had never seen.
His face was red and he was grinning. His blue eyes opened wide in a look of surprise. His soft white hair protruded around his head. But strangest of all was his long, wrinkled body, ten times as long as the body, that shot out of the box with Jack’s head on top of it every time the lock was unlocked and the lid was put back on. To put Jack back in his box, you have to push him down, down, down until the cap can snap over his head, and there it will stay until you give him a chance to jump out of the box again.
You might think that such a long body would get tired of being pressed into a box, and that the head would not like being pressed against a hard wooden lid. But no one has ever looked happier and gayer than Jack-in-the-Box. Indeed, he was such a comical and flamboyant little man that no one could look at him without smiling and oftentimes laughing out loud.
Now you should know why Jack-in-the-Box came to visit the Popovers. Elaine had a cousin named Tom, who was a four-year-old toddler. He lived close to Elaine and he and Elaine played together every day. But Tom fell ill. He was suffering from scarlet fever. On the same day that she learned this information, Eileen’s mother told her that she was going to visit Aunt Amelia and Uncle Henry and would not return home until Tom was well again.
Poor Tom was really very ill. Elaine knew this because her mother wrote to Aunt Amelia almost every day. But now he is so much better that he can sit up in bed and play with some of his toys again.
“Would you like to send Tom a gift?” Aunt Amelia asked when she read this. We will choose something that he can play with in bed.
On that very day Aunt Amelia and Ellen went out together to “the Village”, which was really a street with shops on either side of the road. And in a store with a full table full of toys, Elaine chose Jack-in-the-Box because she knew it was the game that would satisfy Tom best.
“He’ll laugh and laugh when Jack jumps,” said Eileen, “and Jack will be with Tom, too, when there’s no one in the room.”
So Jack-in-the-Box was purchased and taken home. He wouldn’t have been fired until Uncle Henry saw him that night.
The Popovers were so excited when Ellen brought the yellow box into the playroom. They were still more excited when they got back up, shaved the cap, hopped jack-in-the-box and gave them all a head start. They were very surprised that they fell to the ground, but that was partly because Elaine had jumped up too, and they were standing in a row against Elaine’s lap.
But they weren’t afraid, not in the least. They liked Jack’s smiling face and considered him a funny fellow. Elaine made him jump and jump again, and each time Popover liked him better. At last when Elaine had left and Jack-in-the-Bcx, with the cap on, left standing in the Little Red Doll House, the Popovers and Jack-in-the-Box smiled at each other and it wasn’t long before they were talking together.
“I was made in a toy factory,” Jack-in-the-Box began, grinning as if a toy factory was the most beautiful place in the world. There were rocking horses, jump buggies, carts, trains, and all kinds of toys made when I was there. After that I was sent to the shop in the “village” here. I liked the shop. I loved seeing people going in and out. But I’m glad Ellen bought me. She says I will live with a little boy named Tom who was very sick.
The Popovers were interested in whatever Jack-in-the-Box had to say. They in turn told him about little Amelia and living in the attic and brought them downstairs when Ellen came to visit. They also told him about Peanut, their good little friend, and how now he rarely came to see them because he was afraid of Blinky the cat.
“We miss Peanuts more than we can say, and Peanuts is so lonely without us that he often gets so sad,” the Popovers said, shaking their heads.
“This Blinky Cat,” Jack in the Box asked, “is he a great friend of yours too?”
“Oh, no! Popovers exclaimed. We don’t like Blinky at all. He’s rough and scratchy. We wish Blinky would go away and never come back again!”
“Do you think Blinky will be here in the playroom this afternoon?” I asked the Jack-in-the-Box in a low voice, so low that the Popovers had to lean forward in order to hear. Do you think he will? Then come closer and let me whisper in your ear.
Jack laughed to himself until his head shook violently on his long, wrinkled body.
The Popovers also laughed when they heard what Jack in the Box said. They nodded, laughed, and nodded again.
Then they did a strange thing. They start shoving Jack down into his trunk. Mr. and Mrs. Popover climbed onto the edge of the box and pushed and tugged until Jack was well inside. While they held him there, Velvetina stood at the dining-room table, and removed the lid, which Mr. Popover quickly fixed in place. The whole time they were shutting Jack up, he laughed and talked as if it was a lot of fun.
Then the Popovers hurried to work, as if the yellow box had never been there. Mrs. Popover and Velvetina began making the beds and dusting the furniture. The Loo-Loo who was so awake was so shaken by Mr. Popover by seeing Jack-in-the-Box jump that it looked as if he would never fall asleep.
Downstairs, Blinky had begun. Good morning. He had sat on the steps, sunning himself, as happy as he could be, until Eileen and Aunt Amelia came home from ‘the Village’. Aunt Amelia then settled down on the porch with her sewing and Blinky started having fun by climbing in the rocking chair.
Now Aunt Amelia didn’t know that Blinky was playing behind her chair. She was sewing and sewing and Blinky and climbing, under and over the rockers, each in his own way and her way having a good time, until Aunt Amelia, remembering a letter to Caroline, suddenly stood up.
The rocker has landed on the tip of Blinky’s tail!
Me-o-ow! Blinky cried out, frightened and in pain. “Me-o-ow!”
He rushed home at Aunt Amelia’s feet. She almost tripped and fell.
Ellen stood at the foot of the stairs. Ellen’s dress reached Blinky’s, up to her shoulder, arching his back, digging in his claws and spitting out to the whole world like a real adult cat.
Of course Elaine didn’t know what happened to Blinky. Like him, she felt both frightened and hurt to have him swoop on her shoulder in such a sudden manner.
So Eileen started crying. She didn’t just cry. Aunt Amelia, already startled by Blinky’s behaviour, was still more astonished by Elaine’s cries. And for a moment or two there was great confusion in Aunt Amelia’s hall.
But Aunt Amelia quickly pulled Blinky by the shoulder and placed him firmly on the ground. Then she turns to console Elaine, and Blinky shoots like an arrow down the stairs.
He raced into the playroom, all quivering and excited, his tail wagging and waving to and fro. The first thing he saw was a strange yellow box.
What was this box? What are you going to do with it? Will you swing on his tail? He must find out.
So Blinky started playing with the box. He touched her gently with his paw. slapped her Push it back and forth. I rocked it from side to side. He played with something shiny and shiny that seemed to move at times when he pressed his paw on it. Blinky became more daring and rough in his play. Forgot his flapping tail. He could be happy again.
Then all of a sudden the top of the box flew off and something came out at Blinky, something that jiggled and nodded and waved and almost scared Blinky out of his wits.
This was much worse than the rocker going down on his tail.
“Maybe he’ll come after me and eat me,” thought Blinky, afraid.
Through the playroom door, shoot Blinky down the stairs. He raced into the library, and there, instead of sensibly hiding under the table or squeezing behind Uncle Henry’s desk, went up the blinky, amber silk curtains which Aunt Amelia and Ellen both thought were the fairest of them all. And everywhere Blinky put his claws he left a hole. There was a little teardrop right above the curtain that shows you where Blinky climbed.
We have already said that Aunt Amelia was not fond of cats. So when I found out long ago what Blinky had done with her amber silk curtains, it is not hard to guess what Aunt Amelia said.
“He must come home,” said Aunt Amelia. “He must come home at once.”
So Blinky goes to a basket, and Caroline and Elaine carry him to the house where Caroline’s friend Sarah lives.
Ellen almost cried when she said goodbye to Blinky. I forgot the scratches on her shoulder. She forgot a long scratch on her hand.
“Blinky didn’t know any better,” Elaine said.
And he no longer does.
But oh! How happy Popover was when they found out Blinky was gone. And how Jack in the Box smiled when Eileen picked him up to show him to Uncle Henry and then sent him away to little Tom.
But you know who was the happiest of all. Why, yes, of course, it was peanuts.
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