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About this book

The first critical edition of the beloved classics that established Edith Nesbit as a major children's writer provides extensive guidance to help today's reader navigate the enchanting world of the Bastable family. Nelson situates Nesbit's groundbreaking stories in the context of British popular culture at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Table of Contents

The Story of the Treasure Seekers

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. The Council of Ways and Means

Abstract
This is the story of the different ways we looked for treasure, and I think when you have read it you will see that we were not lazy about the looking.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 2. Digging for Treasure

Abstract
I am afraid the last chapter was rather dull. It is always dull in books when people talk and talk, and don’t do anything, but I was obliged to put it in, or else you wouldn’t have understood all the rest. The best part of books is when things are happening. That is the best part of real things too. This is why I shall not tell you in this story about all the days when nothing happened. You will not catch me saying, ‘thus the sad days passed slowly by’ — or ‘the years rolled on their weary course’ — or ‘time went on’ — because it is silly; of course time goes on — whether you say so or not. So I shall just tell you the nice, interesting parts — and in between you will understand that we had our meals and got up and went to bed, and dull things like that. It would be sickening to write all that down, though of course it happens. I said so to Albert-next-door’s uncle, who writes books, and he said, ‘Quite right, that’s what we call selection, a necessity of true art.’ And he is very clever indeed. So you see.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 3. Being Detectives

Abstract
The next thing that happened to us was very interesting. It was as real as the half-crowns — not just pretending. I shall try to write it as like a real book as I can.1 Of course we have read Mr Sherlock Holmes, as well as the yellow-covered books with pictures outside that are so badly printed; and you get them for fourpence halfpenny at the bookstall when the corners of them are beginning to curl up and get dirty, with people looking to see how the story ends when they are waiting for trains. I think this is most unfair to the boy at the bookstall. The books are written by a gentleman named Gaboriau, and Albert’s uncle says they are the worst translations in the world — and written in vile English. Of course they’re not like Kipling, but they’re jolly good stories. And we had just been reading a book by Dick Diddlington — that’s not his right name, but I know all about libel actions, so I shall not say what his name is really, because his books are rot. Only they put it into our heads to do what I am going to narrate.2
E. Nesbit

Chapter 4. Good Hunting

Abstract
When we had got that four shillings by digging for treasure we ought, by rights, to have tried Dicky’s idea of answering the advertisement about ladies and gentlemen and spare time and two pounds a week, but there were several things we rather wanted.1
E. Nesbit

Chapter 5. The Poet and the Editor

Abstract
It was not bad sport — being in London entirely on our own hook. We asked the way to Fleet Street, where Father says all the newspaper offices are. They said straight on down Ludgate Hill — but it turned out to be quite another way. At least we didn’t go straight on.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 6. Noël’s Princess

Abstract
She happened quite accidentally. We were not looking for a Princess at all just then; but Noël had said he was going to find a Princess all by himself; and marry her — and he really did. Which was rather odd, because when people say things are going to befall, very often they don’t. It was different, of course, with the prophets of old.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 7. Being Bandits

Abstract
Noël was quite tiresome for ever so long after we found the Princess. He would keep on wanting to go to the Park when the rest of us didn’t, and though we went several times to please him, we never found that door open again, and all of us except him knew from the first that it would be no go.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 8. Being Editors

Abstract
It was Albert’s uncle who thought of our trying a newspaper. He said he thought we should not find the bandit business a paying industry, as a permanency, and that journalism might be.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 9. The G.B

Abstract
Being editors is not the best way to wealth. We all feel this now, and highwaymen are not respected any more like they used to be.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 10. Lord Tottenham

Abstract
Oswald is a boy of firm and unswerving character, and he had never wavered from his first idea. He felt quite certain that the books were right, and that the best way to restore fallen fortunes was to rescue an old gentleman in distress.1 Then he brings you up as his own son: but if you preferred to go on being your own father’s son I expect the old gentleman would make it up to you some other way. In the books the least thing does it — you put up the railway carriage window — or you pick up his purse when he drops it — or you say a hymn when he suddenly asks you to, and then your fortune is made.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 11. Castilian Amoroso

Abstract
One day when we suddenly found that we had half a crown we decided that we really ought to try Dicky’s way of restoring our fallen fortunes while yet the deed was in our power. Because it might easily have happened to us never to have half a crown again. So we decided to dally no longer with being journalists and bandits and things like them, but to send for sample and instructions how to earn two pounds a week each in our spare time.1 We had seen the advertisement in the paper, and we had always wanted to do it, but we had never had the money before, somehow. The advertisement says: ‘Any lady or gentleman can easily earn two pounds a week in their spare time. Sample and instructions, two shillings. Packed free from observation.’ A good deal of the half-crown was Dora’s. It came from her godmother; but she said she would not mind letting Dicky have it if he would pay her back before Christmas, and if we were sure it was right to try to make our fortune that way. Of course that was quite easy, because out of two pounds a week in your spare time you can easily pay all your debts, and have almost as much left as you began with; and as to the right we told her to dry up.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 12. The Nobleness of Oswald

Abstract
The part about his nobleness only comes at the end, but you would not understand it unless you knew how it began. It began, like nearly everything about that time, with treasure seeking.1
E. Nesbit

Chapter 13. The Robber and the Burglar

Abstract
A day or two after Noël came back from Hastings there was snow; it was jolly.1 And we cleared it off the path. A man to do it is sixpence at least, and you should always save when you can. A penny saved is a penny earned. And then we thought it would be nice to clear it off the top of the portico, where it lies so thick, and the edges as if they had been cut with a knife. And just as we had got out of the landing-window on to the portico, the Water Rates came up the path with his book that he tears the thing out of that says how much you have got to pay, and the little ink-bottle hung on to his buttonhole in case you should pay him.2 Father says the Water Rates is a sensible man, and knows it is always well to be prepared for whatever happens, however unlikely. Alice said afterwards that she rather liked the Water Rates, really, and Noël said he had a face like a good vizier, or the man who rewards the honest boy for restoring the purse, but we did not think about these things at the time, and as the Water Rates came up the steps, we shovelled down a great square slab of snow like an avalanche — and it fell right on his head. Two of us thought of it at the same moment, so it was quite a large avalanche. And when the Water Rates had shaken himself he rang the bell.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 14. The Divining Rod

Abstract
You have no idea how uncomfortable the house was on the day when we sought for gold with the divining-rod.1 It was like a spring-cleaning in the winter-time. All the carpets were up, because Father had told Eliza to make the place decent as there was a gentleman coming to dinner the next day. So she got in a charwoman, and they slopped water about, and left brooms and brushes on the stairs for people to tumble over. H.O. got a big bump on his head in that way, and when he said it was too bad, Eliza said he should keep in the nursery then, and not be where he’d no business. We bandaged his head with a towel, and then he stopped crying and played at being England’s wounded hero dying in the cockpit, while every man was doing his duty, as the hero had told them to, and Alice was Hardy, and I was the doctor, and the others were the crew.2 Playing at Hardy made us think of our own dear robber, and we wished he was there, and wondered if we should ever see him any more.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 15. ‘Lo, the Poor Indian!’

Abstract
It was all very well for Father to ask us not to make a row because the Indian Uncle was coming to talk business, but my young brother’s boots are not the only things that make a noise. We took his boots away and made him wear Dora’s bath slippers, which are soft and woolly, and hardly any soles to them; and of course we wanted to see the Uncle, so we looked over the banisters when he came, and we were as quiet as mice — but when Eliza had let him in she went straight down to the kitchen and made the most awful row you ever heard, it sounded like the Day of Judgment, or all the saucepans and crockery in the house being kicked about the floor, but she told me afterwards it was only the tea-tray and one or two cups and saucers, that she had knocked over in her flurry. We heard the Uncle say, ‘God bless my soul!’ and then he went into Father’s study and the door was shut — we didn’t see him properly at all that time.1
E. Nesbit

Chapter 16. The End of the Treasure-Seeking

Abstract
Now it is coming near the end of our treasure-seeking, and the end was so wonderful that now nothing is like it used to be. It is like as if our fortunes had been in an earthquake, and after those, you know, everything comes out wrong-way up.
E. Nesbit

The Wouldbegoods

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. The Jungle

Abstract
‘Children are like jam: all very well in the proper place, but you can’t stand them all over the shop — eh, what?’
E. Nesbit

Chapter 2. The Wouldbegoods

Abstract
When we were sent down into the country to learn to be good we felt it was rather good business, because we knew our being sent there was really only to get us out of the way for a little while, and we knew right enough that it wasn’t a punishment, though Mrs Blake said it was, because we had been punished thoroughly for taking the stuffed animals out and making a jungle on the lawn with them, and the garden hose.2 And you cannot be punished twice for the same offence. This is the English law; at least I think so. And at any rate no one would punish you three times, and we had had the Malacca cane and the solitary confinement; and the uncle had kindly explained to us that all ill-feeling between him and us was wiped out entirely by the bread and water we had endured. And what with the bread and water and being prisoners, and not being able to tame any mice in our prisons, I quite feel that we had suffered it up thoroughly, and now we could start fair.3
E. Nesbit

Chapter 3. Bill’s Tombstone

Abstract
There were soldiers riding down the road, on horses, two and two. That is the horses were two and two, and the men not. Because each man was riding one horse and leading another. To exercise them. They came from Chatham Barracks. We all drew up in a line outside the church-yard wall, and saluted as they went by, though we had not read Toady Lion then.2 We have since. It is the only decent book I have ever read written by Toady Lion’s author. The others are mere piffle. But many people like them.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 4. The Tower of Mystery

Abstract
It was very rough on Dora having her foot bad, but we took it in turns to stay in with her, and she was very decent about it. Daisy was most with her. I do not dislike Daisy, but I wish she had been taught how to play. Because Dora is rather like that naturally, and sometimes I have thought that Daisy makes her worse.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 5. The Water-Works

Abstract
This is the story of one of the most far-reaching and influentially naughty things we ever did in our lives. We did not mean to do such a deed. And yet we did do it. These things will happen with the best-regulated consciences.1
E. Nesbit

Chapter 6. The Circus

Abstract
The ones of us who had started the Society of the Wouldbegoods began, at about this time, to bother.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 7. Being Beavers; or, The Young Explorers (Arctic or Otherwise)

Abstract
You read in books about the pleasures of London, and about how people who live in the country long for the gay whirl of fashion in town because the country is so dull. I do not agree with this at all. In London, or at any rate Lewisham, nothing happens unless you make it happen; or if it happens it doesn’t happen to you, and you don’t know the people it does happen to. But in the country the most interesting events occur quite freely, and they seem to happen to you as much as to any one else. Very often quite without your doing anything to help.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 8. The High-born Babe

Abstract
It really was not such a bad baby — for a baby. Its face was round and quite clean, which babies’ faces are not always, as I dare say you know by your own youthful relatives; and Dora said its cape was trimmed with real lace, whatever that may be — I don’t see myself how one kind of lace can be realler than another. It was in a very swagger sort of perambulator when we saw it; and the perambulator was standing quite by itself in the lane that leads to the mill.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 9. Hunting the Fox

Abstract
It is idle to expect every one to know everything in the world without being told. If we had been brought up in the country we should have known that it is not done — to hunt the fox in August. But in the Lewisham Road the most observing boy does not notice the dates when it is proper to hunt foxes.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 10. The Sale of Antiquities

Abstract
It began one morning at breakfast. It was the fifteenth of August — the birthday of Napoleon the Great, Oswald Bastable, and another very nice writer.1 Oswald was to keep his birthday on the Saturday, so that his father could be there. A birthday when there are only many happy returns is a little like Sunday or Christmas Eve. Oswald had a birthday-card or two — that was all; but he did not repine, because he knew they always make it up to you for putting off keeping your birthday, and he looked forward to Saturday.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 11. The Benevolent Bar

Abstract
The tramp was very dusty about the feet and legs, and his clothes were very ragged and dirty, but he had cheerful twinkly grey eyes, and he touched his cap to the girls when he spoke to us, though a little as though he would rather not.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 12. The Canterbury Pilgrims

Abstract
The author of these few lines really does hope to goodness that no one will be such an owl as to think from the number of things we did when we were in the country, that we were wretched, neglected little children, whose grown-up relations sparkled in the bright haunts of pleasure, and whirled in the giddy what’s-its-name of fashion, while we were left to weep forsaken at home. It was nothing of the kind, and I wish you to know that my father was with us a good deal — and Albert’s uncle gave up a good many of his valuable hours to us. And the father of Denny and Daisy came now and then, and other people, quite as many as we wished to see. And we had some very decent times with them; and enjoyed ourselves very much indeed, thank you. In some ways the good times you have with grown-ups are better than the ones you have by yourselves. At any rate, they are safer. It is almost impossible, then, to do anything fatal without being pulled up short by a grown-up ere yet the deed is done. And, if you are careful, anything that goes wrong can be looked on as the grown-up’s fault. But these secure pleasures are not so interesting to tell about as the things you do when there is no one to stop you on the edge of the rash act.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 13. The Dragon’s Teeth; or, Army-seed

Abstract
Albert’s uncle was out on his bicycle as usual. After the day when we became Canterbury Pilgrims and were brought home in the dog-cart with red wheels by the lady he told us was his long-lost grandmother he had known years ago in India, he spent not nearly so much of his time in writing, and he used to shave every morning instead of only when requisite, as in earlier days. And he was always going out on his bicycle in his new Norfolk suit. We are not so unobserving as grown-up people make out. We knew well enough he was looking for the long-lost. And we jolly well wished he might find her. Oswald, always full of sympathy with misfortune, however undeserved, had himself tried several times to find the lady. So had the others. But all this is what they call a digression; it has nothing to do with the dragon’s teeth I am now narrating.
E. Nesbit

Chapter 14. Albert’s Uncle’s Grandmother; or, the Long-lost

Abstract
The shadow of the termination now descended in sable thunderclouds upon our devoted nobs. As Albert’s uncle said, ‘School now gaped for its prey.’ In a very short space of time we should be wending our way back to Blackheath, and all the variegated delightfulness of the country would soon be only preserved in memory’s faded flowers. (I don’t care for that way of writing very much. It would be an awful swot to keep it up — looking out the words and all that.)
E. Nesbit
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