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HOME > Children's Novel > The Curlytops in the Woods > CHAPTER I PLAYING HOUSE
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 “Trouble! Trouble! Look out! You’re knocking over the piano!” Janet Martin called this to her little brother William, who, because of the mischief1 he so often got in, was nicknamed “Trouble.”  
“Where’s piano I knock over?” asked Trouble, who was still small enough not to be expected to talk quite properly. “I didn’t was knock over any piano,” he added.
“There! You’ve knocked it over now!” cried Janet, with a wail3 of despair, as a small box, which Trouble kicked with his chubby4 foot, fell down the steps of the back porch. “You knocked over the piano.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Trouble soberly, as he watched his brother Ted2 bringing other boxes to pile on the porch where the children were playing house that pleasant summer afternoon. “Oh, my! I knock over piano,”[2] went on William, still very grave and serious. “Zat’s funny piano,” he added. “It’s only a box!”
“Well, we’re pretending it’s a piano,” remarked Janet, as she picked the box up from the ground where it had tumbled after Trouble accidentally kicked it. “You have to pretend when you’re playing house,” she added.
“What’s Trouble done now?” asked Ted, as he put one of his boxes on the porch and the other down on the ground near the steps. “That’s the garage for our automobile5,” he said, pointing to the box on the ground.
“Oh, that’ll be nice!” exclaimed Janet. “I didn’t know we were going to have an auto6. This is a lovely playhouse!” she said, laughing.
Ted and Janet often played house in this way, setting up a sort of one-floor apartment on the back porch, with different rooms marked off by sticks laid on the floor of the porch. In each of these “rooms” were put different pieces of furniture. Most of the furniture was just boxes, or perhaps an old broken chair or two, or even some sticks and boards. But to the Curlytops the playhouse was very real. Only Trouble[3] could not “pretend” as well as could his older brother and sister. Ted liked to play house with Janet, even if he was a boy.
“What’s that other box for?” asked Janet of Ted, when she had made Trouble sit down on a small, broken doll’s chair in what was the “kitchen” of the playhouse.
“That’s going to be the cupboard,” answered Ted. “And we can——”
“Old Mother Hubbard went to her dog’s cupboard!” sang Trouble.
“It wasn’t her dog’s cupboard, it was her own,” corrected Janet.
“Yes it was dog’s cupboard,” insisted Trouble. “’Cause she went there to get him a bone, but it was bare. Does it mean the bone didn’t have any clothes on?” asked Trouble of his brother.
“Of course not!” laughed Ted. “Bones don’t wear clothes. It means the cupboard was bare—it didn’t have even a bone in it for the dog.”
“Well, it was dog’s cupboard all right!” still insisted the little boy. “You goin’ have Mother Hubbard’s cupboard here?” he asked.
“No, this is going to be our own cupboard,” answered Ted, as he set up the other[4] box he had carried out from the barn. “And we’ll have real things to eat to put in our cupboard, too,” he added.
“No! Not really?” cried Janet, with shining eyes.
“Really and truly,” insisted Teddy. “Look, mother said I could take these cookies,” and he pulled half a dozen or more from his pocket.
“Oh, we’ll have a lovely playhouse!” exclaimed Janet. “I’ll make believe I’m the cook, and you must go to work, Ted, and come home and I’ll have your supper ready and I’ll dress up as mother does when daddy comes home to supper.”
“All right,” agreed Ted. “Do you know where I work, Jan?”
“No,” she answered.
“I’m conductor on an airship!” laughed Teddy. “I’ll climb up in a tree and make believe that’s an airship.”
“This is more fun than we ever had before!” cried Janet. “Oh, Trouble, you mustn’t go in there!” she added, as she saw her small brother picking his way over the sticks that were laid down in squares to mark off the different rooms.
“Not go here?” questioned Trouble, pausing[5] with one foot in one room, and the other in another apartment.
“No, you mustn’t go in there!” insisted Janet. “That’s the parlor7 and your feet are all dirty. You can’t go in the parlor with dirty shoes!”
“All right,” agreed Trouble. “Could I have cookie from pantry?” he asked, watching Ted set up the box and put in it some of the good things from the real kitchen.
“Yes, you can have a cookie when I get Ted’s dinner,” agreed Janet. “Now you go out and play in the yard, and when you hear the whistle blow that will mean Daddy Ted is coming home, and you must come in and eat with us.”
“Can I eat real—have some cookie?” asked Trouble.
“Yes, we’ll let you eat real,” laughed Janet. “But don’t knock over the piano again,” she begged, as she again set up the box that Trouble had sent toppling down the steps.
“I not knock over no more,” he promised.
“Here, you make believe you’re a miner digging for gold,” suggested Ted, giving his small brother a shovel8 and pointing to a soft place in the dirt of the yard. “And when[6] I go ‘Toot! Toot!’ that means it’s the twelve o’clock whistle and you stop work.”
“An’ then we eat!” cried Trouble.
“Yes, then we eat,” agreed Ted. “Now I’m going to be a conductor in my airship,” he added, as he climbed into the branches of a tree near the back porch. Trouble began digging with his shovel in the soft dirt, and Janet arranged the different rooms of the playhouse to suit her own ideas, placing a bunch of leaves on the “piano” as an ornament9.
“Janet! Janet! Oh, Jan!” suddenly cried Trouble, after a few minutes of digging.
“What’s the matter now?” asked his sister, as her small brother looked up from his digging. “Did you hurt yourself?”
“No, but I is not goin’ to be miner an’ dig for gold,” he declared.
“What are you going to be then?” Ted wanted to know.
“I be fisherman diggin’ for worms,” decided10 Trouble. “’At’s most fun ’cause I got a worm right now.”
“All right, be a fisherman and dig for worms,” agreed Janet. “Don’t let him spoil anything in the playhouse,” she called to[7] Teddy up in the tree. “I’m going to ask mother something.”
“All right,” replied Ted. “Are you going after more cookies?”
“No, I’m going to see if mother will let me take her little diamond locket,” answered Janet. “I mean the one with the teeny little diamond in. I want to wear it when I dress up and make believe I’m a lady getting my husband’s supper.”
“Oh, all right,” laughed Ted. “But I don’t believe mother will let you take her diamond locket.”
“I guess she will if I promise to be careful of it,” said Janet.
She went into the house, while Ted continued to play that he was a conductor on an airship, taking up tickets from the make-believe passengers. Trouble kept on digging worms, carefully putting them in a tin can.
Janet found her mother out in the front yard, talking to Mrs. Jenk, a neighbor, and both ladies were laughing.
“What are you laughing at?” asked Janet, before she asked to be allowed to wear the diamond ornament.
“It’s Mr. Jenk’s tame crow,” answered[8] Mrs. Martin. “He really is so funny! He ought to be in a show. Look at him!”
She pointed11 to the open window of Mrs. Jenk’s house, where, on the sill, was perched a black crow. This crow had been caught by Mr. Jenk in the woods some years before. He had tamed the bird, which was lame12 from having been injured in a trap, and now it could do quite a number of tricks, besides saying a few words, or what sounded like words. The lame, tame crow could also whistle, often fooling Skyrocket, the Curlytops’ dog.
Just now the crow was marching up and down on the window sill, going limpity-limp, for one leg was shorter than the other. Suddenly Mrs. Jenk tapped on the fence with a stick, and, at the same time, she snapped her fingers.
Instantly the lame, tame crow stood on his good leg, cocked his head to one side and stuck his short, lame leg out to one side, standing13 in this funny position as stiff and motionless as a stuffed bird. Then, suddenly, he made several popping sounds like corks14 being pulled from bottles.
“Oh, isn’t he funny!” laughed Janet. “He ought to be in a show!”
[9]“Yes, Mr. Jenk had an offer from a theatrical15 man who wanted to put Jim in a show,” said Mrs. Jenk. “This man said our crow was quite valuable, but Mr. Jenk didn’t want to let him go. He says he is going to teach Jim more tricks.”
“Oh, I hope he does!” cried Janet. The crow stood on two legs again, and once more marched up and down the window sill. “Do you think I could make him stand that funny way and pop?” asked Janet.
“Try it,” suggested Mrs. Jenk.
The little girl tapped on the fence and snapped her fingers.
Instantly Jim stiffened16, cocked his head on one side, stuck out his lame leg and stood on the other, stiff and motionless. Then he went:
“Pop! Pop! Pop!”
“Oh, I did it! I did it!” laughed Janet, as Mrs. Jenk went in the house. “I’m going to do it again.”
But this time the crow did no tricks. Perhaps he was tired of showing off. At any rate he flew into a tree over in the yard back of the home of the Curlytops. Jim was allowed to fly about as he pleased, and was well known in the neighborhood. He always[10] flew home at night, though, and slept in the kitchen.
“Oh, Mother!” called Janet, as she saw Mrs. Martin turning to go in the house. “Could I take your little diamond locket? Not the big one, just the little teeny one.”
Mrs. Martin had two diamond lockets, one a very expensive one, and the other not so valuable. This small one had been given to her by her husband when the Martins did not have as much money as they had now. And for this reason Janet’s mother thought more of her small ornament than she did of her more costly17 one.
“I just want to wear it playing house on the back porch,” Janet went on.
“Will you be very careful of it and bring it back to me as soon as you have finished playing?” asked Mrs. Martin.
“Oh, yes,” promised the little girl. “I’ll be ever so careful, and I won’t let Trouble or Ted have it.”
“Well, Ted would be all right,” said Mrs. Martin. “But Trouble might drop it and step on it. I’ll let you take it for a half hour or so.”
She took the locket, with its tiny diamond, from her jewelry18 box, and gave it into the[11] eager hands of Janet. The little girl’s eyes sparkled like twin diamonds as she clasped the ornament about her neck.
“Now be careful of it!” cautioned her mother, as Janet went back to play house with Ted and Trouble.
“I will!” the little girl promised.
Ted was getting down out of the tree when Janet reached the porch, and Trouble was digging in a new place for worms.
“You were gone a long time,” said Ted. “I blew the whistle three times. I got to have my dinner,” he went on, “’cause the ship’s got to sail to China right away soon.”
“Oh, all right, I’ll get your dinner quick,” offered Janet, pretending to be serious. “I just stopped a minute to look at the tame crow,” she said. “He stood on one leg for me.”
“He’s done it for me, too,” said Ted.
“And he could be in a show if he wanted to, only Mr. Jenk won’t sell him,” added Janet.
“Maybe we could get up a circus and have him in one of the acts,” suggested Ted. “Oh, mother let you take the diamond, didn’t she?” he asked, as he saw the sparkle on Janet’s neck.
[12]“Yes, I can wear it while we play house,” she answered. “Now I’ll get dinner. Did you blow the whistle for Trouble to come?” she asked.
“Yes, I did. But he says he’s a fisherman, and fishermen only come when a horn blows, so I got to blow a horn,” laughed Ted.
“Honk! Honk,” he went, pretending to be a horn. Then Trouble dropped his shovel and hurried to the “house” to get some of the cookies before his brother and sister might eat them all.
The children sat on some little chairs that had once been a doll’s furniture set belonging to Janet, and they ate bits of cookies off a box that formed the “dining-room table.”
“We’re having lots of fun!” said Janet.
“Piles of it!” agreed Ted.
“I likes it lots,” declared Trouble. “What you takin’ off ma’s diamond for?” he asked Janet, for she was unclasping the locket from her neck.
“I have to wash the dishes,” she answered, “and you never wash dishes with a diamond locket on.”
“Let me see locket!” begged Trouble, as Janet was about to lay it on the box that served as the cupboard.
[13]“Be very careful of it!” cautioned Janet. She let her small brother take the sparkling ornament in his hand and admire it for a few moments. Then Janet took it again and put it on the box. She was preparing to “wash the dishes,” which was only make-believe, of course; Trouble was again digging in his hole; Ted was up in the tree, pretending to be an airship conductor; when suddenly there sounded a loud crash in front of the house.
“Something’s happened!” exclaimed Janet.
“I go see!” offered Trouble, dropping his shovel.
“It’s an automobile smash-up!” shouted Ted. “I can see it from here!” and he began to scramble19 down from the tree. “Two cars are smashed up!” he went on.
The two Curlytops and Trouble hurried to the front gate, anxious to see what had happened.

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