That nice afternoon Mary Poppins took Jane and Michael to her uncle, Mr. Wigg. It was a long way to Number Three, Robertson Road. But when Mary Poppins rang the bell, the door flew open and a thin lady came out.
«How do you do, Mrs. Wigg,» said Jane.
«Mrs. Wigg!» said the thin lady. «No, thank you! I’m Miss Persimmon and am proud of it!» Jane and Michael looked at each other. They thought that Mr. Wigg was a very special person if the lady was so glad not to be Mrs. Wigg.
Jane and Michael followed Mary Poppins upstairs.
«Come in! And welcome!» called a loud voice from inside.
Mary Poppins opened the door and they came into a nice large room. There was a fireplace in the corner and in the middle of the room there was a big table with four cups, bread and butter, biscuits, chocolates and a large cherry cake.
«Nice to see you,» somebody said. Jane and Michael looked around but saw nobody.
«Oh, Uncle Albert — not again! It’s not your birthday, is it?» Mary Poppins said and looked up. Jane and Michael looked up too and saw a round, fat man in the air. Indeed, he was sitting on the air and reading a newspaper.
«My dear,» said Mr. Wigg, smiling down at them, «I’m very sorry, but it is my birthday.» he said, looking down at Jane and Michael.
«I can see you’re a little surprised,» said Mr. Wigg. And, indeed, their mouths were so wide open! «You see, I’m a happy sort of man. I can smile and laugh at everything,» said Mr. Wigg.
«But why…?» said Jane.
«But how…?» said Michael.
«Well, when my birthday comes on Friday and I laugh on that day, I become filled with Laughing Gas. I can’t keep on the ground. The first funny idea, and I’m up like a balloon!» Mr. Wigg said. «And now here it is Friday again and my birthday, and you are visiting me. Oh, don’t make me laugh, please…» Mr. Wigg began to laugh loudly. He looked so funny, like a big balloon in the air, that Jane and Michael started laughing too. They laughed. And they laughed. They tried to stop, but couldn’t.
Then a funny thing happened to Jane — she felt herself growing lighter and lighter, getting filled with the air. It was a curious and nice feeling. And suddenly, she jumped up in the air.
«Oh, this Laughing Gas is catching!» said Mr. Wigg.
The next moment Michael flew up on Mr. Wigg’s knee.
«Nice to meet you,» said Mr. Wigg to Michael. «It is kind of you to come up to me! Because I can’t come down to you!» And then he and Michael looked at each other and started to laugh again.
«Well, Mary,» said Albert to Mary Poppins, «what about you, my dear?»
«Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins, come up!» said Michael and Jane. «Think of something funny!»
«Ah, she can come up if she wants to,» said Mr. Wigg, «even without laughing.»
«Well,» said Mary Poppins, «it’s all very silly! But you’re all up there and you can’t get down, so…»
Then she put her hands down at her sides and without a laugh, without even a smile, she flew up through the air.
«Now we’re all comfortable… And we can have tea,» Mr. Wigg said. «But … the table’s down there and we’re up here. What shall we do? We’re here and it’s there. It’s a terrible tragedy! But oh, it’s terribly comic!» And he hid his face in his hands and laughed loudly. Jane and Michael joined him. Finally, Mr. Wigg dried his eyes.
«Well,» he said, «we must think of something sad, very sad. And then we shall get down! Well, I had an aunt Emily. She was run over by a bus. Sad. Very sad. Terribly sad. Poor aunt Emily. But her umbrella was OK. That was funny, wasn’t it?» And he started laughing.
«Mary, can’t you do something? We want our tea,» he said finally.
The next moment the table began to jump on its legs. Suddenly with all the cups and plates, it flew up and stopped next to them.
«Good girl!» said Mr. Wigg. «It is my birthday, so we will begin with the Cake!»
Then they heard a quick knock at the door. The door opened, and there stood Miss Persimmon.
«I thought, Mr. Wigg,» she began, looking around the room, «you want some more hot water… Well, I never!» She saw them sitting on the air round the table. «Mr. Wigg, I know you are a little special. But to have tea in the air! For a gentleman of your age!»
«But perhaps you will, Miss Persimmon!» said Michael.
«Will what?» said Miss Persimmon.
«Catch the Laughing Gas, as we did,» said Michael.
«I hope, young man,» she said, «I’ll stay on my feet, oh dear — what is the matter? I can’t walk, I’m going, I — oh, help, HELP!»
Miss Persimmon flew up and came to the table with the jug of hot water. Then she turned and went down again.
«I must see a doctor. I must see a doctor,» she said again and again and ran away from the room.
«IT IS TIME TO GO HOME,» Mary Poppins said seriously. Suddenly Jane and Michael and Mr. Wigg came down. That thought was the first sad thought of the afternoon!
«What a pity!» Mr. Wigg said. «It’s very sad that you must go home.»
They came back home by bus. Jane and Michael were very quiet all the way. Then Michael said to Mary Poppins:
«How often does your Uncle get like that?»
«Like what?» said Mary Poppins sharply.
«Laughing and going up in the air.»
«Up in the air?» Mary Poppins’ voice was angry. «What an idea! He is not a balloon!»
«But he did!» said Michael. «We saw him.» «What? My Uncle is a gentleman!» Michael and Jane said nothing. «Is it true or isn’t it? About Mr. Wigg. Is Mary Poppins right or are we?» they thought.