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A short story by A. A. Milne

The Sands Of Pleasure

Title:     The Sands Of Pleasure
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

Ladies first, so we will start with Jenny. Jenny is only nine, but she has been to the seaside before and knows all about it. She wears the fashionable _costume de plage_, which consists of a white linen hat, a jersey and an overcrowded pair of bathing-drawers, into which not only Jenny, but the rest of her wardrobe, has had to fit itself. Two slim brown legs emerge to bear the burden, and one feels that if she fell over she would have to stay there until somebody picked her up.

She is holding Richard Henry by the hand. Richard Henry is four, and this is the first time he has seen the sea. Jenny is showing it to him. Privately he thinks that it has been over-rated. There was a good deal of talk about it in his suburb (particularly from Jenny, who had been there before) and naturally one expected something rather--well, rather more like what they had been saying it was like. However, perhaps it would be as well to keep in with Jenny and not to let her see that he is disappointed, so every time she says, "Isn't the sea lovely?" he echoes, "Lovely," and now and then he adds (just to humour her), "Is 'at the sea?" and then she has the chance to say again, "Yes, that's the sea, darling. Isn't it lovely?" It is obvious that she is proud of it. Apparently she put it there. Anyway, it seems to be hers now.

Jenny has brought Father and Mother as well as Richard Henry. There they are, over there. When she came before she had to leave them behind, much to their disappointment. Father was saying, "Form fours, left," before going off to France again, and Mother was buying wool to make him some more socks. It was a great relief to them to know that they were being taken this time, and that they would have Jenny to tell them all about it.

Father is lying in a deck-chair, smoking his pipe. There has been an interesting discussion this afternoon as to whether he is a coward or not. Father thought he wasn't, but Mother wasn't quite so sure. Jenny said that of course he couldn't really be, because the King gave him a medal for not being one, but Mother explained that it was only a medal he had over, and Father happened to be passing by the window.

"I don't see what this has to do with it," said Father. "I simply prefer bathing in the morning."

"Oo, you said this morning you preferred bathing in the afternoon," says Jenny like a flash.

"I know; but since then I've had time to think it over, and I see that I was hasty. The morning is the best time."

"I'm afraid he _is_ a coward," said Mother sadly, wondering why she had married him.

"The whole point is, why did Jenny bring me here?"

"To enjoy yourself," said Jenny promptly.

"Well, I am," said Father, closing his eyes.

But we do not feel so sure that Mother is enjoying herself. She has just read in the paper about a mine that floated ashore and exploded. Nobody was near at the time, but supposing one of the children had been playing with it.

"Which one?" said Father lazily.


"Then we should have lost Jenny."

This being so, Jenny promises solemnly not to play with any mine that comes ashore, nor to let Richard Henry play with it, nor to allow it to play with Richard Henry, nor--

"I suppose I may just point it out to him and say, 'Look, that's a mine'?" says Jenny wistfully. If she can't do this, it doesn't seem to be much use coming to the seaside at all.

"I don't think there would be any harm in that," says Father. "But don't engage it in conversation."

"Thank you very much," says Jenny, and she and Richard Henry go off together.

Mother watches them anxiously. Father closes his eyes.

"Now," says Jenny eagerly, "I'm going to show you a darling little crab. Won't that be lovely?"

Richard Henry, having been deceived, as he feels, about the sea, is not too hopeful about that crab. However, he asks politely, "What's a crab?"

"You'll see directly, darling," says Jenny; and he has to be content with that.

"Crab," he murmurs to himself.

Suddenly an idea occurs to him. He lets go of Jenny's hand and trots up to an old gentleman with white whiskers.

"Going to see a crab," he announces.

"Going to see a crab, are you, my little man?" says the old gentleman kindly.

"Going to see a crab," says Richard Henry, determined to keep up his end of the conversation.

"Well, I never! So you're going to see a crab!" says the old gentleman, doing his best with it.

Richard Henry nods two or three times. "Going to see a crab," he says firmly.

Luckily Jenny comes up and rescues him, otherwise they would still be at it. "Come along, darling, and see the crab," she says, picking up his hand; and Richard Henry looks triumphantly at the old gentleman. There you are. Perhaps he will believe a fellow another time.

Jenny has evidently made an arrangement with a particular crab for this afternoon. It is to be hoped that the appointment will be kept, for she has hurried Richard Henry past all sorts of wonderful things which he wanted to stop with for a little. But the thought of this lovely crab, which Jenny thinks so much of, forbids protest. Quite right not to keep it waiting. What will it be like? Will it be bigger than the sea?

We have reached the rendezvous. We see now that we need not have been in such a hurry.

"There!" says Jenny excitedly. "Isn't he a darling little crab? He's asleep." (That's why we need not have hurried.)

Richard Henry says nothing. He can't think of the words for what he is feeling. What he wants to say is that Jenny has let him down again. They passed a lot of these funny little things on their way here, but Jenny wouldn't stop because she was going to show him a Crab, a great, big, enormous darling little Crab--which might have been anything--and now it's only just this. No wonder the old gentleman didn't believe him.

Swindled--that's the word he wants. However, he can't think of it for the moment, so he tries something else.

"Darling little crab," he says.

They leave the dead crab there and hurry back.

"What shall I show you _now_?" says Jenny.

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: The Sands Of Pleasure