Sleeping out of Doors – October 1919

Some weeks ago I told you how the little boys took me into a hut attached to a cattle shelter and told me what a lovely place it would be to sleep in with perhaps a young rabbit popping up in the night to have a peep at them. In that very hot weather of August we read of hundreds of thousands of people —- fathers and mothers and children —- sleeping on the beach for nights at Brighton and other places on the south coast and, as we are not many miles further north, the farm children did not see why they should not sleep out too.

John and Willie made a lovely tent one day by putting in four posts under the tree on the bleach green and covering them with old potato bags sewn together. When it was finished I was invited to enter and asked to admire the comfort and spaciousness of it. It was carpeted with an old waterproof carriage rug, woollen side up, and at one end Ailie had spread a torn shawl as a bed for her dollies who love sleeping in strange places.

The boys were curled up like Turks in the other corners and with shining eyes, they told me to “Come on,” lift the loose flap (that was the only door) and repose at my ease on the few spare inches of unoccupied floor.

They never seem thoroughly to appreciate the vast differences between childhood and age. It is presumed to be quite as easy for me as for them to stoop to a tent under four feet high and cross my legs on the ground.

When I ventured to remind them that I couldn’t sit very long like that, they said I was to bring out my camp stool and we would play school and I would tell them stories about people that had lived in tents like Peter Pan and Wendy. But alas, the roof of the tent was not high enough to accommodate a stool and my great height.

Then Willie thought it would be fine if they could sleep under it that night and they proposed putting a bed chair inside — one that had been standing out in the green during the hot weather for anyone to lie on, who wanted to. But they should have built a tent round the chair. It couldn’t be got in afterwards.

Much discussion went on all day how they were going to do, when mother put a damper on by saying that it looked like rain and they must sleep in their own beds. That quite spoiled Willie’s appetite for supper and he nearly sulked.

However, another day a brilliant idea came to them. It was the end of harvest and the grain was being led in. Every night a big Canadian wagon was for convenience left under the trees at the side of the green. Couldn’t they have rugs and wraps placed in that and rest there secure from animals and frogs.

The bed chair mattress served for one and there were plenty of old rugs to cover the whole of the wagon floor. It is funny how there is always some imp sending things wrong when everything should be going right.

When all was fixed up it wasn’t so very warm after all and we all predicted they would be stealing in —- the side door was to be left unlocked —- at two or three o’clock in the morning, to warm their toes and noses.

They vowed they wouldn’t and so they wrapped themselves up. Over his pyjamas one put his mother’s fur lined coat and a cap on his head, a bed rug over that and a cushion for his feet.  They wished they had the sleeping bag that Robert Louis Stevenson tied on his donkey’s back and which he slept in on the hill sides of Spain.

Queer looking objects they were as, in the dusk, they were helped over the high sides of the wagon. They were not quite so laughing and jolly as we expected. I think they suddenly felt it a wee bit lonesome. It wasn’t quite the same as with crowds lying on a warm beach.

There are bats flying about in the twilight and owls hoot in the night and the collie takes up a nightmare and sets up a hideous howling through the hours of darkness but their big sister was as big a sport as they and shared their open air couch so we left them without any tremors.

They got up pretty early next morning and tripped into the house before many of us were up. They were afraid Willie said that somebody would come and put the horses into the wagon and maybe cover them up with sheaves. It wasn’t because they wakened soon and were glad to get in, oh no.

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