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by Nikolai Nosov
Translated by Margaret Wettlin
Illustrated by Boris Kalaushin
For a little while after Cornflower went out Dunno lay quietly in bed. But then he remembered the doll, and that he had intended to find out what it was stuffed with. He was just about to get up when he heard steps outside the door and some voices speaking in a whisper.
"Where is he?"
"What's he doing?"
"Lying in bed."
"I don't think so."
"Let me look."
Dunno turned to the door and thought he saw somebody peeking through the key-hole.
"Move over, greedy! I want to look as badly as you do," came the whisper.
This was followed by the sounds of a tussle.
"I won't, you called me greedy."
"Don't push!" said somebody angrily. "If you push me once more I'll pull your hair!"
"And I'll pull yours and give you a kick besides!"
Dunno longed to see who it was. He jumped out of bed and flung open the door. He heard it strike something.
"Oh!" gasped two girl-Mites as they sprang apart, clutching their heads. One of them had a green rabbit embroidered on her pinafore, the other, a red squirrel. For a moment they stood staring at Dunno in terror, then they blinked their eyes, burst into tears, and ran up a narrow wooden staircase to the right of the door.
"Boo-hoo!" wept one of them, who had two little pigtails sticking out on either side of her head.
"Boo-hoo!" wept the other, who wore a big blue bow on the very top of her head.
Dunno scratched behind his ear.
"A fine how-do-you-do!'" he muttered. "I seem to have given them a good whack with the door."
Afraid that he might do more mischief in this strange house, he climbed back into bed and pretended to be asleep. Presently the door opened and another girl-Mite looked in. She had curly hair, a pert little face with a pointed nose,
and eyes that sparkled with mischief.
"Bully! Bully!" she shouted at him.
He was so taken aback that he sat straight up in bed. Instantly the door banged shut and he heard feet pattering swiftly away.
"The little stuck-up!" he growled scornfully.
He had just dropped his head back on the pillow and was about to doze off when the door burst open and there was the curly-head again.
"Bully!" she cried. "You big, big bully! Ha, ha, ha!"
Again the door banged shut. Dunno jumped out of bed and ran out into the hall, but there was not a soul in sight.
"Just wait! I'll show you!" he threatened.
Picking up a wooden ruler that lay on the desk, he hid behind the door. He did not have long to wait. Soon steps were heard coming down the hall. Dunno lifted the ruler. The door opened. Down came the ruler.
It was Cornflower.
"Why did you hit me with the ruler?" she wailed, clutching her head. "Now I'll have a bruise on my forehead!"
"Maybe not," said Dunno, twisting the ruler uneasily in his fingers.
"I will. I will! You don't know how tender my skin is! I'd have a bruise if you hit me with a feather!" she cried.
"We can put a piece of plaster on it," said Dunno with sudden inspiration. "You brought a plaster from the chemist's, didn't you?"
"Yes, but I brought it for you."
"It'll do for both of us," said Dunno.
He took the scissors and cut the plaster into four pieces.
"Hurry," said Cornflower. "Put it here — here!"
She bent down and pointed to the sore spot.
Dunno pasted it on, but then he pulled it off again because it was crooked.
"Oh, be careful!" cried Cornflower. "It hurts!"
"It's all right now," said Dunno when the plaster was straight.
Cornflower ran over to the looking-glass.
"All right, did you say? A fine thing if anyone sees me with this plaster on my forehead! Here, show me your shoulder. Where's your bruise?"
And Cornflower began to paste plaster on his shoulder.
"It wasn't you I meant to hit," said Dunno.
"Who was it?"
Dunno wanted to tell her about the curly-head, but he was afraid that might be telling tales.
"Oh, nobody," he said. "I just wanted to see if that ruler was good for giving smacks."
"All you boy-Mites ever think about is giving smacks, but you don't like to take them. What are you laughing at? Does this plaster look so funny on my forehead?" She went over to the looking-glass again.
"It really does look funny," she admitted.
"Cut into a circle. Maybe it'll look better," advised Dunno.
She pulled it off, cut it into a circle, and pasted it back on.
"Is that better?" she said, turning to Dunno.
"Oh, yes, I think it even becomes you," he said.
Cornflower screwed up her eyes and studied herself in the glass.
"And now give me back my shirt and trousers," said Dunno.
"Not until you've washed," she said.
Cornflower took Dunno into the kitchen, where she showed him the sink, a shelf with soap and tooth-paste on it, and a towel hanging from a nail.
"Here's a tooth-brush and tooth-paste. Brush your teeth," and Cornflower held the brush out to him.
"I can't bear tooth-paste," muttered Dunno.
"It tastes bad."
"You don't have to eat it."
"Even so, it burns your tongue."
"It doesn't last long."
He took the brush and ran it half-heartedly over his teeth once or twice, after which he spat and made a nasty face. Then he rinsed out his mouth and washed his hands with soap. When his hands were washed he put the soap back on the shelf and washed his face.
"Oh, no! You've got to wash your face with soap, too," said Cornflower.
"Rats!" said Dunno. "Do you think I want to get soap in my eyes?"
"Well, you won't get your clothes back till you've washed your face with soap!" said Cornflower finally.
There was no help for it. He lathered his face, but washed off the soap as quickly as possible.
"Br-r!" he shivered. "What cold water!"
After a splash or two he stretched out his arms without opening his eyes and felt the wall.
"What are you feeling for?" asked Cornflower, trying hard not to burst out laughing.
"The t-t-towel," said the shivering Dunno.
"How do you expect to find it with your eyes shut? Open them."
"And get them full of soap?"
"You wouldn't if you'd washed it off properly."
Cornflower took down the towel and handed it to him. Only when he had rubbed his face for about five minutes did he open his eyes.
"You look ever so much cleaner and handsomer," said Cornflower, but on seeing the streaks of dirt left on the towel, she added: "I was very lenient with you this time. Next time you'll have to wash more thoroughly."
Then she brought him his clothes.
"Come upstairs and have tea when you're dressed," she said. "You must be hungry, aren't you?"
"Starved," admitted Dunno. "I could eat an elephant."
"Poor dear," said Cornflower. "Well, hurry up, we'll be waiting for you."
Author: Nosov N.; illustrated by Kalaushin B.
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