The Adventures of Cake and Crumb: in which Crumb scolds, the Baby loses her booties, and Cake thinks a thought
It was late afternoon and Cake and Crumb were sitting in the sunny front room next to the bassinet where the Baby was sleeping a little fitfully, waving her arms and twitching her fingers and occasionally breathing a deep sigh. The Man was working in the garden and the Lady was in the next room sleeping. Cake was looking thoughtful and when several minutes had passed with no more than an occasional murmured "I say," and "Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm, well, I DO always say," Crumb could no longer contain herself. She sniffed several times very loudly and said sharply, "Yes, yes! What do you always say? You haven't said anything worth hearing for the last five minutes, but by the looks of you, one would think you were unraveling String Theory!
"Hmm? What's this about string deary?" Cake looked up from the baby booty he was holding, his brow furrowing.
"I said String Theory, not deary, you silly animal! Haven't you ever heard of String Theory?" Crumb demanded.
"Well, no, I can't say that I have. No, I can't say that I have, but then you have heard of so many things I haven't, my good friend. Is it something to do with knitting?" Cake asked.
Crumb sniffed "Of course, any fool could tell that much. Anything to do with string has something to do with knitting. String Theory says that everything in the world is made of yarn: you, me, those booties, for instance."
"Ah-ha, ah-ha! Well, that I can certainly see," mused Cake. He paused and then asked "Only, how about the Lady and the Man and the Baby? Are they made of string, too? They certainly don't look to be! What kind of needle could make them I wonder? And they don't look nearly so fuzzy as I would expect. I'm sure you have the answer, though; explain it to me, my dear, if you would."
Crumb's eyes narrowed as she looked over the top of her spectacles at her friend, hoping to appear wise. "Really, Cake, you're the dullest creature! As if it wasn't obvious! And that is completely beside the point! You are always trying to sidestep my questions, and the question is, "WHAT do you ALWAYS say?"
"Hmmm. What do I always say?" Cake mused, as if to himself.
"Yes," Crumb said, unwilling to give up the point, "you've been sitting there muttering 'I say' and 'I DO always say' for the last five minutes, but not saying anything at all. Now you know I won't have it. I won't have that kind of nonsense going on. You either say a thing or you don't. I put up with all sorts of bumbling and blustering from you, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Now spit it out. What DO you always say?"
"Ah! Well.... of course I always say.... er..... I say a good many things, you see ... but in this instance, yes in this particular instance, I believe I was saying... Oh, yes! I believe I was saying, or rather thinking: ''You can't have too much of a good think,' and that's what I was doing; having a good think!" Cake finished happily, who was fond of idioms and liberal in their application.
Crumb snorted "It's 'you can have too much of a good THING,' not THINK, and anyway I could tell you were trying to think! Now you and I both know you don't think very often, so what I want to know is what sort of thought your fuzzy little brain managed to come up with?"
Cake looked again at the baby booty he was holding and answered reluctantly, "I suppose I was wondering when Miss Nellie would start to do things. She's been here several weeks now and I've yet to introduce myself. Why, I've hardly seen her eyes! And her blasted booties! It's the only thing you've let me do, and she squirms and hates it so when I try to get them over her ears... why can't I be the one to stroke her cheek or her hair when she startles in her sleep or pull her blanket back up over her arms when she throws it off? I want to do some of the important things you and the Lady the Man do; I'm sure I could if you let me. She's never kept her booties on for a minute, and I'm getting quite tired of trying! Miss Nellie may be very nice as babies go, but I don't understand what all the fuss is about. She can't do a thing but kick about and cry or sleep."
"Well I certainly can't lift Nettle's booties, and when the Lady and the Man leave the room, that only leaves you," Crumb explained impatiently. "We've been over this before. And as to what all the fuss is about, I assure you: babies are worth the fuss. Babies are wonderful. Now you just get that booty back on her ear before it gets cold. And mind you take care and aren't too rough with her!"
"And I can't help but notice," Cake went on, as he carefully climbed down into the bassinet, "that the Lady and the Man always put the booties on her feet instead of her ears, and although I know you've told me they're mistaken, never having had a baby before, and you having cared for so many, still I feel rather silly to be taking them off her feet and putting them on her ears every time they leave, though I'm sure, my dear Crumb, that you know best. I'm sure you're completely correct. But all the same, I feel a bit silly."
Crumb sniffed loudly. "Well that only shows how very little you know! In My Time we believed in keeping babies' ears warm, never mind what was easiest or most fashionable, and since the little dear won't wear a hat, we must persevere with the booties. So stop complaining and blustering about! If you'll only give little Nel a bit of time, you'll find out what makes a baby so wonderful. And you mustn't expect something big and grand; here at first it will only be small things, so you must pay attention, Cake. That's your trouble - you're always expecting something grand. But sometimes little things can be really wonderful, too. So as I say, just pay attention and take care, and Nel will come around. You'll be friends sooner than you think."
Cake grunted a bit as he leaned over to fasten the little booty around the baby's earlobe. "There! I'd like to see her get that off in a hurry!" He turned back and began "I'm sure you're right, my dear friend, I'm sure you're right. Like I always say, 'Patience is a --'" he broke off as a small, pink booty sailed past his ear and landed under the coffee table. "Well I never! I never! How can the little thing have gotten it off so quickly?"
Crumb was laughing softly and Cake looked back at the Baby. She lay looking peaceful and quiet, though as Cake stood watching her, he thought he saw something like a smile in the left corner of her mouth. He took a few steps nearer and stopped next to her hand, listening to her breathing. It was soft and relaxed and sometimes she made the tiniest "coo" as she exhaled. "I really wish, little Miss, that you would leave your booties on sometimes, and give Old Cake a break. I'm only trying to do as my good friend Crumb asks, and keep your ears warm. Don't you want to have warm ears?"
The Baby gave a loud sigh and lifted her right hand and brought it down quite hard against her stomach, as if to say that she would like to have a break, as well, and that she cared very little about warm ears. And for the first time, Cake felt he understood what she meant: "Oh-ho, little Nellie, so that's what you would have me believe? Yes, I can see you have a hard time of it, a very hard time, indeed!" Cake chuckled.
Again the Baby sighed and this time Cake was sure he saw a smile twitch the corner of her mouth. And then before he knew what had happened she grabbed his paw with her hand. Her fingers tightened around it and then relaxed, tightened and relaxed, and Cake thought there had never been any handshake quite so nice as this one.
"Well hel-lo, Mistress Nellie! I'm Cake the Rabbit and I hope we will be very good friends. I am the one who has been --"
"Shhhhhh!" Crumb interrupted Cake's boisterous introduction with a hiss. "Quiet and let the dear sleep; there's time enough for that later! Just be quiet and enjoy her without all the bluster!"
"Ah!" said Cake abashedly. He cleared his throat. "Ah, ahem, just so, my dear, just so. I'm very happy to meet you, Miss Nellie," he whispered in a lower voice, "And I like your handshake very much. You are just my kind of fellow, I can tell already."
The Baby did not open her eyes and this time she did not smile but again she squeezed Cake's paw and then let her pudgy little hand rest there on top of his. The rabbit stood as still as he could and this time he said nothing, but as he stood watching her sleep he thought to himself, "I say. I say now! I do always say there is nothing so wonderful as a baby!"