The Book of Small

How Lizzie was Shamed Right Through

Now that I am eight, the same age that Lizzie was when the party happened, and am getting quite near to being grown-up, I can see how shamed poor Lizzie must have been of me then.

Now I know why the Langleys, who were so old, gave a party for us who were so little, but then I was only four so I did not wonder about it at all, nor notice that the fair, shy boy was their own little brother, hundreds and hundreds of years younger than his big brother and two big sisters. They did not poke his party in the little boy’s face, did not say, “Albert, this is your party. You must be kind and polite to the boys and girls.” That would have made Albert shyer than he was already. They let him enjoy his own party just as the other children were enjoying it.

The Langleys’ party was the first one we had ever been to. Mother made us look very nice. We had frilly white dresses, very starched. Lizzie who was eight, and Alice who was six, had blue sashes and hair ribbons. There was pink ribbon on me and I was only four.

Sister Dede bustled round saying, “Hurry! Hurry!” scrubbing finger nails and polishing shoes. She knotted our ribbons very tightly so that we should not lose them,—they pulled the little hairs under our curls and made us “ooch” and wriggle. Then Dede gave us little smacks and called us boobies. The starch in the trimming about our knees was very scratchy. Dede snapped the white elastics under our chins as she put on our hats and said to Mother, “I wonder how long these youngsters will stay clean.” Being fixed up for the party was very painful.

There were three pairs of white cotton gloves waiting on the hall stand, like the mitts of the three little kittens. Mother sorted them and stroked them onto the fingers we held out as stiff as they’d go, and by the time that Mr. Russell’s hansom-cab, the only one in Victoria, jingled up to the door, we were quite ready.

Mother kissed us. Dede kissed us.

“Have you all got clean pocket handkerchiefs?”

Yes, we had.

“Don’t forget to use them.”

No, we wouldn’t.

“Be sure to thank Miss Langley for the nice time.”

“S’pose it isn’t nice?”

“Say ‘thank you’ even more politely.”

We sat in a row on the seat; Mr. Russell slammed the apron of the cab down in front of us, jumped up like a monkey to his perch at the back, and we were off—eight, six and four years old going to our first party.

It was such fun sitting there and being taken by the horse, just as if he knew all by himself where to find parties for little girls, for, after Mr. Russell had climbed up behind so that you could not see him, you forgot that there was a driver.

Lizzie looked over my hat and said to Alice, “I do hope this child will behave decently, don’t you? There! See, already!” She pointed to the tips of my gloves which were all black from feeling the edges and buttons of the cab’s inside.

“Stop it, bad child,” she squealed so shrilly that a little door in the roof of the cab opened and Mr. Russell put his head in. When he saw it was only a “mad” squeal he took his head out again and shut up the hole.

We drove a long way before we came to the Langleys’. Their gate did not know which road it liked best, Moss or Fairfield, so it straddled the corner and gaped wide. We drove up to the door. The two Miss Langleys and Mr. Langley were there, shaking boys and girls by the hands.

The three Langleys had been grown-up a long, long time. They had big shining teeth which their lips hugged tight till smiles pushed them back and then you saw how strong and white the teeth were. They had yellow hair, blue eyes, and had to double down a long way to reach the children’s hands.

Mr. Russell flung back the apron of his cab but we still kept on sitting there in a close row like the three monkeys, “See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” He said, “Come now, little leddies. Me ’oss and ’ansom baint inwited.” He lifted me out and Mr. Langley had to pull the others from the cab, for now that we were in the middle of the party Lizzie was as scared as any of us. She took Alice by one hand and me by the other and we shook hands with all the Langleys, for no matter how scared Lizzie was she always did, and made us do, what she knew was right.

The house was the wide, sitting sort. Vines and creepers tied it down to the ground.

The garden was big. It had trees, bushes and lawns—there were rocks covered with ivy, too.

The Langleys tried to mix the children by suggesting “hide and seek” among the bushes. Everybody hid but no one would seek. Each child wanted to hold a hand belonging to another of its own family. The boys were very, very shy and the girls’ clothes so starchy they rattled if they moved.

By and by Miss Langley counted . . . “Sixteen”, she said, “That is all we have invited so we had better start.” Something was coming up the drive. Lizzie thought it was our cab and that Miss Langley meant that it was time to be going home, so she took us up to Miss Langley to say what Mother had told us to, but it was not Mr. Russell at all. It was Mr. Winter’s big picnic carriage, all shiny and new, the one he had got specially for taking children to parties and picnics. There seemed to be no end to the amount of children he could stuff into this carriage, but there was, because, when they put me in, there was not a crack of space left except the door handle, so I sat on that. The boys were all up in the front seat, swarming over Mr. Winter like sparrows. Behind sat all the little girls—so still—so polite. Suddenly I had a thought and cried, “If this door busted open I’d fall out!”

“Millie, don’t say ‘busted’. It’s horrible! Say ‘bursted’.” Lizzie’s face was red with shame.

We went to Foul Bay and had games on the beach. After we had played a long time Lizzie was just as clean as when we left home, Alice was almost as clean, and I was all mussed up, but they were not having half such a good time as I.

We went back to the Langleys’ house for tea. There were all sorts of sandwiches and there was cocoa and two kinds of cake—one just plain currant, the other a most beautiful cake with pink icing and jelly.

Lizzie and Alice sat across the table from me and were being frightfully polite, taking little nibbling bites like ladies, holding their cups with one hand, and never forgetting “thank you”.

My mug was big, it took both my hands. Even then it was heavy and slopped. Miss Langley said, “Oh, your pretty frock!” and tied a bib round me and pulled the little neck hairs so hard that I could not help one or two squeaks . . . they weren’t big, but Lizzie scowled and whispered to Alice. I was sure she said, “Bad, dirty little thing.” I was just going to make a face at her when Miss Kate Langley came with the splendid pink cake. I had a piece of the currant kind on my plate. I was so afraid Miss Kate would see it and pass me—maybe she would never come back—that I stuffed the currant cake into both cheeks and held my hand up as the girls did at lessons if they wanted something.

“Jelly cake, dear?”

I couldn’t speak, but I nodded. Lizzie’s forehead crinkled like cream when mother was skimming for butter. She mouthed across at me, “I’m going to tell.” My mouth was too busy to do anything with, but I did the worst I could at her with my eyes and nose. She had spoilt everything. Somehow the jelly cake was not half as nice as I thought it was going to be.

The moment tea was over Miss Langley took my bib off and, holding me by the wrists with my hands in the air, said:

“Come, dear. Let me wash you before . . .”

She washed beautifully and was a lovely lady. I told her about my cat Tibby, and after she had washed my face she kissed it.

I felt very special going back to the others with my hand in that of the biggest and best Miss Langley.

Out on the lawn they were playing “Presents for shies.” Mr. Langley stuck up four wobbly poles and put a prize on top of each—bells and tops and whistles. If your shy hit a pole so that a prize fell off, it was yours to keep. I wanted a whistle most dreadfully. When my turn came my shy flew right over the other side of the garden. I had been quite sure that I could knock the whistle off the pole but my shy stick just would not do it. I had three tries and then I ran to Alice who was sitting on a bench and put my head down in her lap and howled. She lifted me by the ribbon and spread her handkerchief under my face so that I should not spoil her dress. Miss Langley heard my crying.

“There, there!” she said and gave me a little muslin bag with six candies in it—but it was not a whistle.

Lizzie told Miss Langley that she was very ashamed of me and that I always did behave dreadfully at parties. That made me stop crying and shout, “I never, never went to one before.” Then I did make the very worst face I knew how at Lizzie and gave two sweets to Alice, two to Miss Langley, two to myself, and threw the empty bag at Lizzie as she went off to have her shy. I don’t know how I should have felt if she had won a whistle but when she came back without any prize I picked up the bag and put the candy I was not eating in it and gave it to her.

Jingle, jingle, clop, clop—Mr. Russell’s cab was coming up the drive. Again Lizzie marched us to Miss Langley.

“Thank you for a very nice party, Miss Langley,” she said.

Then she poked at Alice, but Alice only went red as a geranium! She had forgotten what it was she had to say. Poor Lizzie looked down at me and saw the spot of jelly, the cocoa and the front part of me where I’d gone under the bush after my shy stick. She pushed me back and pulled her own clean skirt across me quickly.

When Lizzie wasn’t looking at her Alice could remember all right. She said, “Miss Langley, I liked myself, and I’m glad I came.”

Miss Langley gave her such a lovely smile that I tore my hand from Lizzie’s, ran up and tiptoed, with my face as high as it would go, for Miss Langley to kiss.

We all jumped into the cab then and the apron slammed off everything but our heads and waving hands. The cab whisked round. The party was gone.

“Where’re your gloves?”


“Where’s your hankie?”


Lizzie took out her own and nearly twisted the nose off my face.

“I’m going to tell Mother about ‘busted’, about grabbing the jelly cake with your mouth full, about having to wear a bib and be washed. Oh! and there’s the two lost things as well. I expect you’ll get spanked, you disgusting child. I’m shamed right through about you, and I’m never, never, never going to take you to a party again.”

One of my eyes cried for tiredness and the other because I was mad.

Alice got out her hankie, her very best one with Christmas scent on it. “Keep it,” she whispered, pushing it into my hand. “Then there’ll be only one lost thing instead of two.”


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This work (The Book of Small by Emily Carr) is free of known copyright restrictions.