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12

Michael Bond

A Bear from Peru in England

Please Look After this Bear

Mr and Mrs Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform.

In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a

bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.

The Browns were there to meet their daughter Judy, who was

coming home from school for the holidays. It was a warm summer

day and the station was crowded with people on their way to the

seaside. Trains were whistling, taxis hooting, porters rushing about

shouting at one another, and altogether there was so much noise

that Mr Brown, who saw him first, had to tell his wife several times

before she understood.

'A bear? On Paddington station?" Mrs Brown looked at her

husband in amazement. "Don't be silly, Henry. There can't be!"

Mr Brown adjusted his glasses. "But there is," he insisted. "I

distinctly saw it. Over there — behind those mailbags. It was wearing

a funny kind of hat."

Withuut waiting for a reply he caught hold of his wife's arm and

pushed her through the crowd, round a trolley laden with chocolate

and cups of tea, past a bookstall, and through a gap in a pile of

suitcases towards the Lost Property Office.

"There you are," he announced, triumphantly, pointing towards

a dark corner. "I told you so!"

Mrs Brown followed the direction of his arm and dimly made

out a small, furry object in the shadows. It seemed to be sitting on

some kind of suitcase and around its neck there was a label with

some writing on it. The suitcase was old and battered and on the

side, in large letters, were the words WANTED ON VOYAGE1.

Mrs Brown clutched at her husband. "Why, Henry," she exclaimed.

"I believe you were right after all. It is a bear!"

1 wanted on voyage - ручная кладь

132

She peered at it more closely. It seemed a very unusual kind of

bear. It was brown in colour, a rather dirty brown, and it was wearing

a most odd-looking hat, with a wide brim, just as Mr Brown had

said. From beneath the brim two large, round eyes stared back at

her.

Seeing that something was expected of it the bear stood up and

politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. "Good afternoon,"

it said, in a small, clear voice.

"Er... good afternoon," replied Mr Brown, doubtfully. There was

a moment of silence.

The bear looked at them inquiringly. "Can I help you?"

Mr Brown looked rather embarrassed. "Well... no. Er... as a

matter of fact, we were wondering if we could help you."

Mrs Brown bent down. "You're a very small bear," she said.

The bear puffed out its chest. "I'm a very rare sort of bear," he

replied, importantly. "There aren't many of us left where I come

from."

"And where is that?" asked Mrs Brown.

The bear looked round carefully before replying. "Darkest Peru.

I'm not really supposed to be here at all. I'm a stowaway1!"

'A stowaway?" Mr Brown lowered his voice and looked anxiously

over his shoulder. He almost expected to see a policeman standing

behind him with a notebook and pencil, taking everything down.

"Yes," said the bear. "I emigrated, you know." A sad expression

came into its eyes. "I used to live with my Aunt Lucy in Peru, but

she had to go into a home for retired bears."

"You don't mean to say you've come all the way from South

America by yourself?" exclaimed Mrs Brown.

The bear nodded. 'Aunt Lucy always said she wanted me to

emigrate when I was old enough. That's why she taught me to

speak English."

"But whatever did you do for food?" asked Mr Brown. "You

must be starving."

Bending down, the bear unlocked the suitcase with a small key,

which it also had round its neck, and brought out an almost empty

glass jar. "I ate marmalade," he said, rather proudly. "Bears like

marmalade. And I lived in a lifeboat."

1 stowaway - безбилетный пассажир, "заяц"

133

"But what are you going to do now?" said Mr Brown. "You can't

just sit on Paddington station waiting for something to happen."

"Oh, I shall be all right... I expect." The bear bent down to do up its

case again. As he did so Mrs Brown caught a glimpse of the writing on

the label. It said, simply, PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR, THANK YOU.

She turned appealingly to her husband. "Oh, Henry, what shall

we do? We can't just leave him here. There's no knowing what

might happen to him. London's such a big place when you've

nowhere to go. Can't he come and stay with us for a few days?"

Mr Brown hesitated. "But Mary, dear, we can't take him... not

just like that. After all..."

'After all, what?" Mrs Brown's voice had a firm note to it. She

looked down at the bear. "He is rather sweet. And he'd be such

company for Jonathan and Judy. Even if it's only for a little while.

They'd never forgive you if they knew you'd left him here."

"It all seems highly irregular," said Mr Brown, doubtfully. "I'm

sure there's a law about it." He bent down. "Would you like to come

and stay with us?" he asked. "That is," he added, hastily, not wishing

to offend the bear, "if you've nothing else planned."

The bear jumped and his hat nearly fell off with excitement.

"Oooh, yes, please. I should like that very much. I've nowhere to

go and everyone seems in such a hurry."

"Well, that's settled then," said Mrs Brown, before her husband

could change his mind. 'And you can have marmalade for breakfast

every morning, and —" she tried hard to think of something else

that bears might like.

"Every morning?" The bear looked as if it could hardly believe

its ears. "I only had it on special occasions at home. Marmalade's

very expensive in Darkest Peru."

"Then you shall have it every morning starting tomorrow,"

continued Mrs Brown. 'And honey on Sunday."

A worried, expression came over the bear's face. "Will it cost

very much?" he asked. "You see, I haven't very much money."

"Of course not. We wouldn't dream of charging you anything.

We shall expect you to be one of the family, shan't we, Henry?"

Mrs Brown looked at her husband for support.

"Of course," said Mr Brown. "By the way," he added, "if you are

coming home with us you'd better know our names. This is Mrs

Brown and I'm Mr Brown."

134

The bear raised its hat politely — twice. "I haven't really got a

name," he said. "Only a Peruvian one which no one can understand."

"Then we'd better give you an English one," said Mrs Brown. "It'll

make things much easier." She looked round the station for inspiration.

"It ought to be something special," she said thoughtfully. As she spoke

an engine standing in one of the platforms gave a loud whistle and let

off a cloud of steam. "I know what!" she exclaimed. "We found you on

Paddington station so we'll call you Paddington!"

"Paddington!" The bear repeated it several times to make sure.

"It seems a very long name."

"Quite distinguished," said Mr Brown. "Yes, I like Paddington

as a name. Paddington it shall be."

Mrs Brown stood up. "Good. Now, Paddington, I have to meet our

little daughter, Judy, off the train. She's coming home from school.

I'm sure you must be thirsty after your long journey, so you go along

to the buffet with Mr Brown and he'll buy you a nice cup of tea."

Paddington lacked his lips. "I'm very thirsty," he said. "Sea water

makes you thirsty." He picked up his suitcase, pulled his hat down

firmly over his head, and waved a paw politely in the direction of

the buffet. 'After you, Mr Brown."

"Er... thank you, Paddington," said Mr Brown.

"Now, Henry, look after him," Mrs Brown called after them.

'And for goodness' sake, when you get a moment, take that label

off his neck. It makes him look like a parcel. I'm sure he'll get put

in a luggage van or something if a porter sees him."

The buffet was crowded when they entered but Mr Brown managed

to find a table for two in a corner. By standing on a chair

Paddington could just rest his paws comfortably on the glass top.

He looked around with interest while Mr Brown went to fetch the

tea. The sight of everyone eating reminded him of how hungry he

felt. There was a half-eaten bun on the table but just as he reached

out his paw a waitress came up and swept it into a pan.

"You don't want that, dearie," she said, giving him a friendly

pat. "You don't know where it's been."

Paddington felt so empty he didn't really mind where it had

been but he was much too polite to say anything.

"Well, Paddington," said Mr Brown, as he placed two steaming

cups of tea on the table and a plate piled high with cakes. "How's

that to be going on with?"

135

Paddington's eyes glistened. "It's very nice, thank you," he

exclaimed, eyeing the tea doubtfully. "But it's rather hard drinking

out of a cup. I usually get my head stuck, or else my hat falls in and

makes it taste nasty."

Mr Brown hesitated. "Then you'd better give your hat to me. I'll

pour the tea into a saucer for you. It's not really done in the best

circles, but I'm sure no one will mind just this once."

Paddington removed his hat and laid it carefully on the table

while Mr Brown poured out the tea. He looked hungrily at the

cakes, in particular at a large cream-and-jam one which Mr Brown

placed on a plate in front of him.

"There you are, Paddington," he said, "I'm sorry they haven't

any marmalade ones, but they were the best I could get."

"I'm glad I emigrated," said Paddington, as he reached out a

paw and pulled the plate nearer. "Do you think anyone would mind

if I stood on the table to eat?"

Before Mr Brown could answer he had climbed up and placed

his right paw firmly on the bun. It was a very large bun, the biggest

and stickiest Mr Brown had been able to find, and in a matter of

moments most of the inside found its way on to Paddingston's

whiskers. People started to nudge each other and began staring in

their direction. Mr Brown wished he had chosen a plain, ordinary

bun, but he wasn't very experienced in the ways of bears. He stirred

his tea and looked out of the window, pretending he had tea with a

bear on Paddington station every day of his life.

"Henry!" The sound of his wife's voice brought him back to

earth with a start. "Henry, whatever are you doing to that poor

bear? Look at him! He's covered all over with cream and jam."

Mr Brown jumped up in confusion. "He seemed rather hungry,"

he answered, lamely.

Mrs Brown turned to her daughter. "This is what happens when

I leave your father alone for five minutes."

Judy Happed hpr hands pxritedly. "Oh, Daddy, is he really going

to stay with us?"

"If he does," said Mrs Brown, "I can see someone other than

your father will have to look after him. Just look at the mess

he's in!"

Paddington, who all this time had been too interested in his bun

to worry about what was going on, suddenly became aware that

136

people were talking about him. He looked up to see that Mrs Brown

had been joined by a little girl, with laughing blue eyes and long,

fair hair. He jumped up, meaning to raise his hat, and in his haste

slipped on a patch of strawberry jam which somehow or other had

found its way on to the glass table-top. For a brief moment he had a

dizzy impression of everything and everyone being upside down. He

waved his paws wildly in the air and then, before anyone could catch

him, he somersaulted backwards and landed with a splash in his saucer

of tea. He jumped up even quicker than he had sat down, because the

tea was still very hot, and promptly stepped into Mr Brown's cup.

Judy threw back her head and laughed until the tears rolled

down her face. "Oh, Mummy, isn't he funny!" she cried.

Paddington, who didn't think it at all funny, stood for a moment

with one foot on the table and the other in Mr Brown's tea. There

were large patches of white cream all over his face, and on his left

ear there was a lump of strawberry jam.

"You wouldn't think," said Mrs Brown, "that anyone could get

in such a state with just one bun."

Mr. Brown coughed. He had just caught the stern eye1 of a

waitress on the other side of the counter. "Perhaps," he said, "we'd

better go. I'll see if I can find a taxi." He picked up Judy's belongings

and hurried outside.

Paddington stepped gingerly off the table and, with a last look

at the sticky remains of his bun, climbed down on to the floor.

Judy took on of his paws. "Come along, Paddington. We'll take

you home and you can have a nice hot bath. Then you can tell me

all about South America. I'm sure you must have had lots of

wonderful adventures."

"I have," said Paddington, earnestly. "Lots. Things are always

happening to me. I'm that sort of bear."

When they came out of the buffet, Mr Brown had already found

a taxi and he waved them across. The driver looked hard at Paddington

and then at the inside of his nice, clean taxi.

"Bears is sixpence extra," he said, gruffly. "Sticky bears is ninepence!"

"He can't help being sticky, driver," said Mr Brown. "He's just

had a nasty accident."

1 caught the stern eye - заметил суровый взгляд

137

The driver hesitated. 'All right, 'op in1. But mind none of it

comes off on me interior. I only cleaned it out this morning."

The Browns trooped obediently into the back of the taxi. Mr and

Mrs Brown and Judy sat in the back, while Paddington stood on a

tip-up seat behind the driver so that he could see out of the window.

The sun was shining as they drove out of the station and after

the gloom and the noise everything seemed bright and cheerful.

They swept past a group of people at a bus stop and Paddington

waved. Several people stared and one man raised his hat in return.

It was all very friendly. After weeks of sitting alone in a lifeboat

there was so much to see. There were people and cars and big, red

buses everywhere — it wasn't a bit like Darkest Peru.

Paddington kept one eye out of the window in case he missed

anything. With his other eye he carefully examined Mr and Mrs

Brown and Judy. Mr Brown was fat and jolly, with a big moustache

and glasses, while Mrs Brown, who was also rather plump, looked

like a larger edition of Judy. Paddington had just decided he was

going to like staying with the Browns when the glass window behind

the driver shot back and a gruff voice said, "Where did you say you

wanted to go?"

Mr Brown leaned forward. "Number thirty-two, Windsor Gardens."

The driver cupped his ear with one hand. "Can't 'ear2 you," he

shouted.

Paddington tapped him on the shoulder. "Number thirty-two,

Windsor Gardens," he repeated.

The taxi driver jumped at the sound of Paddington's voice and

narrowly missed hitting a bus. He looked down at his shoulder and

glared. "Cream!" he said, bitterly. 'All over me new coat!"

Judy giggled and Mr and Mrs Brown exchanged glances. Mr

Brown peered at the meter. He half-expected to see a sign go up

saying they had to pay another sixpence.

"I beg your pardon," said Paddington. He bent forward and tried

to rub the stain off with his other paw. Several bun crumbs and a

smear of jam added themselves mysteriously to the taxi driver's coat.

The driver gave Paddington a long, hard look. Paddington raised his

hat and the driver slammed the window shut again.

1 'op in = hop in

2 'ear = hear

138

"Oh dear," said Mrs Brown. "We really shall have to give him a

bath as soon as we get indoors. It's getting everywhere."

Paddington looked thoughtful. It wasn't so much that he didn't

like baths; he really didn't mind being covered with jam and cream.

It seemed a pity to wash it all off quite so soon. But before he had

time to consider the matter the taxi stopped and the Browns began

to climb out. Paddington picked up his suitcase and followed Judy

up a flight of white steps to a big green door.

"Now you're going to meet Mrs Bird," said Judy. "She looks

after us. She's a bit fierce sometimes and she grumbles a lot but

she doesn't really mean it. I'm sure you'll like her."

Paddington felt his knees begin to tremble. He looked round for

Mr and Mrs Brown, but they appeared to be having some sort of

argument with the taxi driver. Behind the door he could hear

footsteps approaching.

"I'm sure I shall like her, if you say so," he said, catching sight

of his reflection on the brightly polished letter-box. "But will she

like me?"

13

James Thurber
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