The clothes peg
Isabel is a pretty little girl of five and a half. She has long blond hair, which her mother ties into two braids that rest on her shoulders. Her favourite clothes are her blue overalls, her white t-shirt and her blue trainers.
Isabel has three big brothers. There's Bertrand, who's nineteen and a student at university. He adores his little sister. Then there's Benoît, who's thirteen and a computer whizz. He's always too busy tapping away at his computer to play with Isabel. Finally, there's Benjamin. He's seven and a half and he and Isabel share the same bedroom—he sleeps on the top bunk and she sleeps on the bottom. Even though they argue sometimes, they are great friends.
Sometimes, Isabel walks home from school all by herself. From the school gates, she walks on the pavement for 300 yards, turns the corner, and walks another 300 yards to her home.
Why did no one come to collect her from school today? Well, Daddy thought Mummy would go. Mummy was sure she had asked Bertrand. Bertrand had told Benoît and Benoît thought it was Benjamin's turn. Benjamin could have sworn that Daddy said he would go...
So today, Isabel walked home from school all by herself. As she was walking along, she noticed a red clothes peg on the pavement. It was a pretty clothes peg. There was nobody around so Isabel bent down and picked it up. She clipped it onto the front pocket of her overalls and continued home. Mummy opened the door.
As you know, Mummies always notice everything...
"What have you there Isabel?"
"It's a clothes peg, Mummy."
"Yes, I can see that. What are you planning to do with it?"
"I don't know yet," mumbled Isabel, "but I'm thinking about it. I think it's pretty."
She ate her snack and went up to her bedroom. She looked around.
"What can I do with this little clothes peg? Oh yes! That's a good idea!"
If she fixed a string between the two ends of the bunk bed, she could display drawings by clipping them to the string with her clothes peg. When she lay in her bed at night, she could look at her pictures.
Carefully, she cut a long piece of string and tried to tie it to the end of her bed. Unfortunately she didn't know how to tie knots yet and the string didn't hold.
Back from school, her brother Benjamin walked into their bedroom. Isabel asked him to tie the string to each bed end for her. Benjamin tied a first knot and pulled the string to tie the other end. He cocked his head and looked at his little sister.
"What will you give me if I finish tying these two knots?"
Isabel held his gaze, smiled sweetly and replied:
"A big kiss."
"No thanks!" scoffed Benjamin.
"Oh. Alright! I'll give you two sweets."
"OK," replied Benjamin. "Two sweets per knot, that makes four sweets altogether."
"Greedy-guts!" sulked Isabel.
Benjamin finished tying the second knot. The four sweets swapped pockets and Isabel sat down to draw.
When her brother is back from school, Isabel is only allowed to stay in their bedroom if she is calm and quiet as Benjamin is in Year Three and has to do his homework.
She took a piece of paper and her crayons and drew a beautiful flower—a rose. When she had finished, she clipped her drawing to the string with her red clothes peg and then went out to play in the garden.
Later that afternoon she returned to her bedroom. She was very surprised to see that her drawing was gone. She looked on the floor, under her bed, behind the drawers. It was nowhere to be found.
"Benjamin, did you touch my picture?"
"No," replied Benjamin, "I'm busy doing my maths homework."
Isabel searched again. Suddenly, she noticed a beautiful flower on her bed. A real rose, with beautiful pink petals and a long stalk.
"Did you put a rose on my bed, Benjamin?"
"Leave me alone and let me get on with my homework," complained her brother.
Just then, Mummy called for Isabel.
Isabel mumbled to herself: "What could I draw next?"
"Draw a red racing car," suggested Benjamin.
"Be quiet and finish your homework or you'll get a zero like last time."
Isabel picked up her crayons, drew a red racing car and attached it with her clothes peg. Taking the rose, she went downstairs and gave it to her mother. Mummy found it so beautiful that she put it in a vase at the centre of the dining table.
"Come and help me lay the table, Isabel, then wash your hands and call your brothers down to supper."
When the table was set, Isabel went upstairs and washed her hands in the bathroom. Then she called her brothers. She looked into her bedroom. The drawing of the red racing car was gone. On her bed was a magnificent toy racing car. It was red. She gave it to her brother.
"Wow, thanks!" said Benjamin excitedly. "You're really kind, Isabel. This is nicer than any of the cars I've got. Here, you can have your sweets back."
"No thanks, I don't want them. I gave you the ones I didn't like anyway."
Benjamin eyed his sister. He knew she was pulling his leg... as she often did.
Isabel begun to think that her clothes peg was special.
She had an idea. She would draw a doll, a doll that looked just like her, with long blond hair, blue overalls, a white t-shirt and blue trainers. She clipped her drawing to the clothes peg and went downstairs for supper. Straight after supper she rushed upstairs and into her room. Her drawing was gone but on her pillow she found a lovely doll with long blond hair and blue overalls.
Now she was certain: Isabel had a magic clothes peg! What could she draw next? Isabel had wanted a cat for ages but Daddy and Mummy would not allow animals in the house.
It was decided then—she would draw a cat. But Isabel wasn't very good at drawing animals. She wanted a sweet little kitten but the one she drew looked like a sick old thing. She tore up her drawing and went down the corridor to her big brothers' bedroom. As usual, Benoît was bent over his computer.
"Have you got a cat in your computer, Benoît?" asked Isabel casually.
"Maybe," answered Benoît. "Wait, I'll look on the net. Look, an elephant! How about that?"
"No, I prefer a cat. An elephant is too big!"
"No. I'd be afraid he would eat me. I want a cat."
"Then a cat you shall have. There! A cute fluffy white kitten," said Benoît, pointing to his screen.
"I'd prefer a black one," said Isabel.
"A black cat, here we go. There! Do you like him?"
"Oh yes! He's lovely! Can I have him?"
Benoît pressed the 'print' button on his computer and the black cat came out on the paper.
"Here you are, little sister," said Benoît kindly, handing Isabel the paper with a cute black kitten printed on it.
"Thank you!" said Isabel.
She gave her brother a kiss and went back to her room. With her magic clothes peg, she clipped the picture of the black cat to the string at the end of her bed and then went to have a bath. She returned to her room, barefoot and dressed in her white night dress with little blue flowers. She was holding her breath in excitement. But the picture was still attached to the string with the clothes peg. The magic wasn't working.
Perhaps the magic didn't work because she hadn't drawn the picture herself? She unclipped the picture and very carefully traced over it with some tracing paper. She clipped the traced picture to the clothes peg and left the room, with the door ajar so she could see what would happen. Isabel is very curious.
At first, nothing happened at all. Then suddenly the door slammed shut, almost catching Isabel's nose. Slowly, she opened the door and peeked inside her room. The drawing was gone! And on her bed was the cutest little black kitten.
Isabel scooped up the kitten in her arms and stroked it, then quickly got into bed as Mummy was coming up the stairs to kiss her goodnight.
Isabel hid the kitten under the bed covers, putting her finger over her lips in a sign to tell him to be quiet. She didn't dare tell Mummy about the magic clothes peg or the kitten.
Mummy came into the room, picked up Isabel's overalls from the floor, shook them out and folded them neatly on the chair for tomorrow, then she turned towards her daughter and bent down to give her a kiss.
"Oh! I thought I was kissing a little girl goodnight—but actually I'm kissing a kitten!" Mummy smiled. "Goodnight my little kitten, sleep tight. Sweet dreams!"
Mummy got up to leave.
"Daddy will come and say goodnight in a minute," she said.
"Shush, little kitten! You have to be quiet," whispered Isabel. "You mustn't meow anymore."
Daddy came into the room:
"Goodnight my darling. Here's a big kiss."
Daddy kissed his little girl.
"Good Gracious!" exclaimed Daddy. "Where has my little girl gone? It's a kitten I'm kissing goodnight. Goodnight my little kitten. See you in the morning."
"Goodnight Daddy," smiled Isabel.
Daddy got up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Phew! Mummy and Daddy hadn't realized that there was a real kitten in her bed.
She stroked him. She kissed him. She looked at him. Time passed... Benjamin came in. He was already in his pyjamas.
Benjamin was seven and a half. He could go to bed a bit later than his little sister. He climbed up the steps into the top bunk bed and lay down.
"Mew... mew.... mew..."
"Stop it, Isabel!"
"Mew... mew.... mew..."
"Isabel, I asked you to be quiet."
Isabel made signs to her kitten to top making so much noise, but her little kitten kept meowing.
"Isabel, if you meow once more, I'll call Mummy and Daddy."
It was quiet for a second... but then, "Mew".
Benjamin got up, climbed down the ladder, opened the bedroom door and cried:
"Daddy, Mummy! Isabel keeps on meowing. I can't sleep. She's being annoying!"
Daddy's firm voice resonated up the stairs:
"Isabel, that's enough now, kitten. Go to sleep."
Benjamin climbed back into his bed.
Isabel realised with alarm that her kitten had run out of the bedroom while the door was open. She quickly got up and went into the corridor, closing the bedroom door behind her.
But the little kitten was already gone. He was climbing down the stairs. Isabel followed. She had to get him before Daddy and Mummy saw him. The kitten reached the bottom of the stairs, crossed the hall and padded into the kitchen, stopping in front of the fridge.
Isabel realised that her little kitten must have been meowing because he was hungry. She opened the cupboard and took out a bowl, then opened the fridge and poured in some milk, returning the milk bottle to its place. She placed the bowl on the floor and the little kitten lapped up half the milk.
Just then, she heard Mummy walking towards the kitchen. Quickly, Isabel grabbed her kitten and put it in the empty sink, covering it with a tea towel. Mummy came into the kitchen.
"What are you doing, Isabel?"
"I'm thirsty, Mummy. I need a drink."
"You could have just gone to the bathroom for a drink of water."
"But I was a bit hungry, Mummy, so I came down to get some milk."
"And why did you put a bowl of milk on the floor? Are you going to crawl on the floor and lap it up like a cat?"
Isabel blushed. She looked down and said nothing.
"Come now, finish your milk."
"I'm not thirsty anymore," replied Isabel. "I'll pour it down the sink"
Isabel didn't want to drink the milk from the bowl the kitten had just used. Mummy opened her eyes wide with surprise.
"Isabel, there are little children in the world your age who are starving. They don't have enough food to eat; they don't have enough milk to drink. In this family, we do not pour good milk down the sink."
Isabel held Mummy's gaze, and to keep her secret safe, she held the bowl the kitten had just used to her lips and drank. When all the milk was finished, Mummy said:
"All right, back to bed now."
Isabel went back upstairs and Mummy went back to the sitting room.
As soon as she heard the door close, Isabel crept back down the stairs and into the kitchen. She bundled her kitten into her arms and went back to her bedroom. Benjamin was fast asleep.
She got into bed, looked at her kitten, stroked and kissed him, and fell asleep.
When morning came and she opened her eyes, the little kitten was still there. He hadn't moved. He had turned into a cuddly toy kitten!
Isabel never forgot that when he first arrived, he was a real kitten.
And what happened to the clothes peg? Well, it disappeared. Isabel never found it again.
Who knows, perhaps one day, while you are walking along, you might find it. You can already dream of what you will draw when you do.