It was Christmas time and Mary Poppins, Jane and Michael were going to the Largest Shop to do their Christmas shopping. Shop windows were full of toys and books and plum cakes.
«Look, airplanes!» said Michael.
«Two little black babies — are they chocolate?» asked Jane.
«Now we will go in,» Mary Poppins said to Jane and Michael.
It wasn’t easy to choose the presents for all the family.
«That will be for Daddy,» said Michael and took a toy train with special signals. «I will take care of it for him when he goes to the City.»
«I think I will get this for Mother,» said Jane and took a small doll’s pram, which her Mother always wanted. «Perhaps she will give it to me sometimes.»
After that, Michael chose a packet of hairpins for the Twins and a Meccano set for his Mother.
Jane bought ‘Robinson Crusoe’ for the Twins to read when they grew up.
«Now I can read it myself,» she said. «I am sure they will give it to me.»
At last Mary Poppins said: «And it is time to go home.»
«Just five minutes longer,» asked Jane.
But Mary Poppins said «No» and the children had to go with her. Behind them the dolls on the Christmas tree were saying, «Take me home, somebody!» and the airplanes were all trying to fly, «Let me fly! Ah, do let me fly!»
Jane and Michael hurried away, closing their ears to those voices. The time in the Toy Department was very short.
And when they were going to open the shop door, they saw a running girl.
«Look!» said Jane and Michael both together.
«Oh dear!» said Mary Poppins surprisingly.
The girl had few clothes on. Suddenly she stopped and looked around. The girl was looking for someone. Then she saw Jane, Michael and Mary Poppins.
«Ah, there you are! Thank you for waiting. I’m afraid I’m a little late. Aren’t you glad to see me?»
«Yes,» said Jane smiling, «but who are you?»
«Who am I? Don’t say you don’t know me?»
The child looked very surprised and then she turned to Mary Poppins.
«She knows me. Don’t you? I’m sure you know me!»
There was a curious look on Mary Poppins’ face: «Does it begin with an M?»
«Of course it does. I’m Maia. I’m the second of the Pleiades. Electra — she’s the eldest — couldn’t come because she’s looking after Merope, the baby. Oh, Jane! Oh, Michael! I’ve often watched you from the sky, and now I’m actually talking to you. There is nothing about you I don’t know.
«Michael doesn’t like to brush his hair. And your Father has got thin hair on the top. I like him. It was he who first introduced us — don’t you remember? He said one evening last summer: ‘Look, there are the Pleiades. Seven stars all together, the smallest in the sky. But there is one of them you can’t see.’ He meant Merope, of course. She’s still too young to stay up all night. She’s such a baby that she has to go to bed very early. Some of them up there call us the Little Sisters.»
«But what are you doing here?» asked Michael, still very surprised.
«I’ve come down to buy toys for them all. We can’t get away very often, you know. We’re so busy making the spring rains. Can you help me?» she said and took the children back to the Toy Department. As they went, the people stood and looked at them and dropped their bags.
«Just look at her. She is so cold. What are her parents thinking of?»
But Jane, Michael, Mary Poppins and Maia were very busy with shopping and didn’t look around.
«Here we are!» said Maia. «What shall we buy? I want something for each of my sisters — six of them. First — my eldest sister. She’s very domestic. What about that nice broom? We have so many troubles with star-dust. Now for Taygete. She likes dancing. Don’t you think, Jane, a skipping-rope would be just the thing for her. Then there’s Alcyone. She’s so quiet. Does she want anything? A book, do you think, Mary Poppins? I hope she would like that nice little book. And if she doesn’t, she can look at the pictures. I know what Celaeno wants. A hoop. She will like morning exercises with it up there, in the sky. She’ll love that red and blue one. Now there are only the two little sisters left. Michael, what would you advise for Sterope?»
«What about a top?» said Michael.
«What a good idea! She will love to watch it turning round and round in the sky. And what do you think for Merope, the baby, Jane?»
«John and Barbara,» said Jane, «have rubber ducks!»
«Oh, Jane, how clever you are! A rubber duck for Merope, please — a blue one with yellow eyes.»
Then Michael turned and said to Mary Poppins.
«But who will pay for the toys?»
«What did you say?» asked Maia with round, surprised eyes. «Nobody will pay. There is nothing to pay — is there?»
«Nothing at all, madam,» the shop assistant said and gave her the bag full of toys.
«Now we must go,» she went on, taking Michael’s arm. «We must all go home. It’s very late, and I heard your Mother telling you that you must be home in time for tea. Besides, I must get back, too. Come.» And she led the way through the shop and out.
Outside the shop Jane suddenly said, «But there’s no present for her. She’s bought something for all the others and nothing for herself. Maia has no Christmas present.»
Mary Poppins gave a quick look into the shop window. She saw herself, very nicely dressed, with her hat and her new gloves on. Then she took off her new gloves and put them on to Maia’s hands.
«There!» she said. «It’s cold today.»
Maia looked at the gloves. They were too big for her little hands. She said nothing, but came up to Mary Poppins and kissed her.
«I’ve been so happy,» said Maia. «Don’t forget me, will you?»
The children shook their heads.
«Good-bye,» said Maia. She stood on tiptoe, lifted up her arms and jumped into the air. She began to walk the air up and up, climbing higher and higher. You could think there were stairs in the grey sky.
«What on earth is happening?» somebody asked.
«But it’s not possible!» said another voice.
A lot of people were standing with their heads up and looking at the girl in the sky. Suddenly they heard the voice of the Policeman.
«What is this? What is going on here?»
He looked up and called angrily:
«There! Come down! What are you doing up there? Come down! We can’t have the girl walking through the air. It’s not natural!»
But Maia was going up and up. Then a cloud hid her but they knew she was behind it. The bright light was coming through the dark cloud.
When Jane, Michael and Mary Poppins came home and the children told their story to their Mother, she said:
«Perhaps…You know, at Christmas time strange things happen.»
«But what about Mary Poppins’ gloves?» said Jane. «We saw her give the gloves to Maia. And she’s not wearing them now!»
«What, Mary Poppins!» said Mrs. Banks. «Your best gloves! You gave them away!»
Mary Poppins said in her usual cold voice:
«My gloves are my gloves and I do with them what I like!»