John and Barbara’s story
One day Jane and Michael were out at a party. Mrs. Banks was on the sofa with her feet up and Mary Poppins was making the room. The Twins, John and Barbara were in their beds.
«Oh, go away! You’re in my eyes,» said John in a loud voice.
«Sorry!» said the sunlight. «I must move from East to West in a day. Sorry! Shut your eyes and you won’t see me.»
The golden sunlight went across the room as quick as it could because it didn’t want to trouble John.
«How soft, how sweet you are! I love you,» said Barbara to the sunlight.
«Talking, talking! What a noisy place! There’s always somebody talking in this room,» said a voice at the window.
John and Barbara looked up. It was the Black Bird.
«I like that,» said Mary Poppins. «And what about you? All day long — non-stop talking. You are worse than any sparrow, and that’s the truth.»
The Black Bird looked at Mary Poppins.
«Well,» he said, «consultations, discussions, arguments, disputes — that is my work…»
«Work!» said John, laughing.
«And I wasn’t talking to you, young man,» said the Black Bird. «I heard you talking for some hours last Saturday. Well, I thought you would never stop — I couldn’t sleep all night.»
«That wasn’t talking,» said John. «I was… I had a pain.»
But the Black Birds didn’t listen to him. «Well, Barbara, have you got anything for me today?»
«There’s the half of a biscuit,» she said. The Black Bird took the biscuit and began to eat it.
«Thank you!» said Mary Poppins, but he was too busy eating the biscuit.
«I said ‘Thank you!’,» said Mary Poppins a little louder.
The Black Bird looked up. «Eh — what? Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve no time for such useless words.» And he finished his biscuit.
The room was very quiet. John put his right foot into his mouth.
«Why are you doing that?» said Barbara, in her soft voice. «There’s nobody to see you.»
«I know,» said John. «But I like to keep in practice. The grown-ups like my trick so much.»
«They liked my trick, too,» said Barbara. «Yesterday I took off my socks and she said I was so sweet that she would like to eat me. She really wanted to eat me, didn’t she?»
«No. It’s only the idiotic way they talk,» said John. «I don’t believe I’ll ever understand them. They are so stupid. And even Jane and Michael are stupid sometimes.»
«Yes,» agreed Barbara, taking off her socks and putting them on again.
«Well,» John went on, «they don’t understand anything we say. They don’t understand what other things say. Last Monday Jane said that she didn’t understand the language of the wind.»
«I know,» said Barbara. «Michael thinks that the Black Bird says ‘Wee-Twee!’ He doesn’t know that the Black Bird speaks English!»
«They knew once,» said Mary Poppins.
«What?» said John and Barbara together. «Really? They understood the Bird and the Wind and…»
«And the language of the sunlight and the stars — of course they did! Once.»
«But — why have they forgotten it all?» asked John.
«Because they’ve grown older,» explained Mary Poppins. «Barbara, put on your socks at once, please.»
«How silly they are! I shall never forget it when I grow up,» said John.
«Nor I,» said Barbara.
«Yes you will,» said Mary Poppins.
«We won’t!» said the Twins.
But the Black Bird laughed. «I say you will. You’ll forget because everybody forgets. There never was a boy or a girl except, of course, Her.» And he looked at Mary Poppins.
«But why can she remember?» said John.
«She’s different,» said the Black Bird. «She’s something special, you see.»
The sunlight moved on through the room, outside a light wind was blowing among the cherry trees in the Lane.
«Listen, the wind’s talking,» said John. «We won’t hear that, Mary Poppins?»
«You’ll hear,» said Mary Poppins, «but you won’t understand. It’s how things happen.»
Now John and Barbara were crying loudly. The door opened and Mrs. Banks came in.
«Oh, my sweets, what is it? Why are they crying, Mary Poppins?»
«I think they’re getting their teeth,» said Mary Poppins.
«Oh, of course,» said Mrs. Banks happily.
«I don’t want teeth. I will forget all the things I like,» cried John.
«And I don’t want any teeth,» cried Barbara.
Mrs. Banks was saying sweet words to her babies and John stopped crying. He didn’t want his Mother to be sad. So he stopped crying and gave her a lovely smile. Then Jane stopped crying too. Mother gave them a kiss and left the room.
That moment Mary Poppins smiled a secret smile.
«Just listen to them!» said the Black Bird. «They think they will remember. In a month or two — their teeth will grow, they will be one year old — and they will forget. They won’t even know my name, silly children! Ha! Ha! Ha!» And he flew away through the window.
At last the teeth came through and the Twins had their first birthday. Next day the Black Bird came back.
«Hello! Here we are again!» he said happily. «Well, Barbara,» he began in his soft voice, «anything for the old friend today?»
«Ba-loo — ba-loo — ba-loo!» said Barbara, finishing her last biscuit.
«What’s my name? What’s my name? What’s my name?» cried the Black Bird in a loud voice.
«Er-umph!» said John. The Black Bird understood everything. «So — it’s happened,» he said quietly to Mary Poppins. She nodded.
«Oh, well — I knew it. But they didn’t believe it. I shall miss them!» and he was gone.