by A. A. Milne
Outside in the street the rain fell pitilessly, but inside the
Children's Shop all was warmth and brightness. Happy young people of
all ages pressed along, and I had no sooner opened the door than I
was received into the eager stream of shoppers and hurried away to
Fairyland. A slight block at one corner pitched me into an old,
white-bearded gentleman who was standing next to me. Instantly my hat
was in my hand.
"I beg your pardon," I said with a bow. "I was—Oh, I'm sorry, I
thought you were real." I straightened him up, looked at his price,
and wondered whether I should buy him.
"What do you mean by real?" he said.
I started violently and took my hat off again.
"I am very stupid this morning," I began. "The fact is I mistook
you for a toy. A foolish error."
"I AM a toy."
"In that case," I said in some annoyance, "I can't stay here
arguing with you. Good-morning." And I took my hat off for the third
"Don't go. Stop and buy me. You'll never get what you want if you
don't take me with you. I've been in this place for years, and I know
exactly where everything is. Besides, as I shall have to give away all
your presents for you, it's only fair that—"
An attendant came up and looked at me inquiringly.
"How much is this THING?" I said, and jerked a thumb at it.
"The Father Christmas?"
"Yes. I think I'll have it. I'll take it with me—you needn't wrap
I handed over some money and we pushed on together.
"You heard what I called you?" I said to him. "A thing. So don't go
putting yourself forward."
He gazed up innocently from under my arm.
"What shall we get first?" he asked.
"I want the engine-room. The locomotive in the home. The boy's own
"That's downstairs. But did you really think of an engine? I mean,
isn't it rather large and heavy? Why not get a—"
I smacked his head, and we went downstairs.
It was a delightful room. I was introduced to practically the whole
of the Great Western Railway's rolling stock.
"Engine, three carriages and a guard's van. That's right. Then I
shall want some rails, of course.... SHUT up, will you?" I said
angrily, when the attendant was out of hearing.
"It's the extra weight," he sighed. "The reindeer don't like it.
And these modern chimneys—you've no idea what a squeeze it is.
"Those are very jolly," I said when I had examined the rails. "I
shall want about a mile of them. Threepence ha'penny a foot? Then I
shan't want nearly a mile."
I got about thirty feet, and then turned to switches and signals
and lamps and things. I bought a lot of those. You never know what
emergency might not arise on the nursery floor, and if anything
happened for want of a switch or two I should never forgive myself.
Just as we were going away I caught sight of the jolliest little
clockwork torpedo boat. I stopped irresolute.
"Don't be silly," said the voice under my arm. "You'll never be
asked to the house again if you give that."
"Wait till the children have fallen into the bath once or twice
with all their clothes on, and then ask the mother why not."
"I see," I said stiffly, and we went upstairs.
"The next thing we want is bricks."
"Bricks," said Father Christmas uneasily. "Bricks. Yes, there's
bricks. Have you ever thought of one of those nice little woolly
"Where do we get bricks?"
"Bricks. You know, I don't think mothers are as fond as all that of
"I got the mother's present yesterday, thanks very much. This is
for one of the children."
They showed me bricks and they showed me pictures of what the
bricks would build. Palaces, simply palaces. Gone was the Balbus-wall
of our youth; gone was the fort with its arrow-holes for the archers.
Nothing now but temples and Moorish palaces.
"Jove, I should love that," I said." I mean HE would love that. Do
you want much land for a house of that size? I know of a site on the
nursery floor, but—well, of course, we could always have an iron
building outside in the passage for the billiard table."
We paid and moved off again.
"What are you mumbling about now?" I asked.
"I said you'll only make the boy discontented with his present home
if you teach him to build nothing but castles and ruined abbeys and
things. And you WILL run to bulk. Half of those bricks would have
made a very nice present for anybody."
"Yes, and when royalty comes on a visit, where would you put them?
They'd have to pig it in the box-room. If we're going to have a
palace, let's have a good one."
"Very well. What do your children hang up? Stockings or
We went downstairs again.
"Having provided for the engineer and the architect," I said, "we
now have to consider the gentleman in the dairy business. I want a
"You want a milk-cart! You want a milk-cart! You want a—Why not
have a brewer's dray? Why not have something really heavy? The
reindeer wouldn't mind. They've been out every day this week, but
they'd love it. What about a nice skating-rink? What about—"
I put him head downwards in my pocket and approached an official.
"Do you keep milk-carts?" I said diffidently.
He screwed up his face and thought.
"I could get you one," he said.
"I don't want you to build one specially for me. If they aren't
made, I expect it's because mothers don't like them. It was just an
idea of mine."
"Oh yes, they're made. I can show a picture of one in our
He showed it to me. It was about the size of a perambulator, and
contained every kind of can. I simply had to let Father Christmas
"Look at that!" I exclaimed in delight.
"Good lord!" he said, and dived into the pocket again.
I held him there tightly and finished my business with the
Father Christmas has never spoken since. Sometimes I wonder if he
ever spoke at all, for one imagines strange things in the Children's
Shop. He stands now on my writing-table, and observes me with the
friendly smile which has been so fixed a feature of his since I
brought him home.