(A/N - Hello! This is my first Mary Poppins fic, and I'll have you know that before you point out any errors story wise – I have never seen the movie. Yes, I was deprived of a classic, I know. BUT, when I went on my chorus trip to New York several weeks ago, I saw the new show on Broadway (and LOVED it). I've been hooked ever since, doing some research because I really wanted to write something about it. So I did my research and ended up writing this short story (if you can call 15 pages short, lol). I hope it is okay for a Poppins amateur, and I hope you enjoy it. Please leave me a review if you have any suggestions or comments; I appreciate any and all feedback. Let me know how I did with my limited knowledge, lol. Thank you so much just for having a look, and enjoy reading! By the way, I am a MaryBert fan, lol. Can't help it; they're adorable. Some implied romace below!)
- Dis/Claimer -
. x X x .
Under The Weather
It was not a day of promise if you looked out the window of Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Skies were overcast and dark. Rain threatened and would fall most of the day. Bert realized he would not be a screever today, as he would have liked; he had a most wonderful memory he wanted to draw up with his chalk. Nevertheless, he threw his chimney brush over his shoulder and headed for the rooftops while the weather held up.
Mary Poppins was again residing in the Banks residence with Jane and Michael until their parents returned from a long vacation. For a week it had been 'spit spot,' 'study,' and 'stand straight' for the two children, but the games Mary concocted were well worth cooperation and obedience for their favorite nanny. However, Mary awoke feeling unrested, which was very uncommon. Making her way over to the window, she looked out in surprise at the darkness. Street lamps were still alight at the hour, also uncommon.
She turned, but her eyes still scanned the dim street.
"What are we going to do today?" he asked.
"Can we go to the park?" Jane asked.
"Oh, can we?" Michael quickly chimed in.
"Now, now, we have much to do here before we go anywhere," Mary said, crossing the nursery. "And it looks of rain, so we may be bound to stay indoors today."
Michael and Jane moaned, earning themselves a reprimand. "Oh honestly. There is plenty of adventure right here and enough imagination in you to carry it out," she reasoned. "But we must first- first… achoo!"
The Banks children looked at Mary in surprise as she sniffled and lifted her head.
"Mary Poppins," Michael marveled, "did you just sneeze?"
"Yes, I- I did," she replied in confusion.
"God bless you," Jane offered.
"Thank you," Mary said. "Now come on. We have a good-"
A sudden wrap came at the window. Mary turned with the children, Jane running to pull back the curtain. A soot-covered Bert smiled at them and tipped his hat.
"It's Bert!" Michael ran over to help open the window, and the chimney sweep leaned into the nursery. He smiled over to Mary to acknowledge her as the Banks children bombarded him with a dubious welcome.
"Hello!" Jane said.
"Good morning," Bert said, stepping inside. "Beautiful day, don't you think?"
"Sure," Bert told her. "It's a gorgeous day to go dance in the rain! A rainy cotillion for the four of us!"
"I've never played in the rain before," Michael said.
Michael shook his head. "Father would never hear of such a thing!"
"What an audacity!" Bert declared. "Well don't you fret anymore, Michael Banks! You is going to play all day in the rain. It's the perfect day to do so! Clouds are rollin' in as we speak, and-"
Suddenly, from a forgotten corner of the room, Mary gave a horrendous sneeze. Bert stopped mid-sentence and looked up at her in disbelief, quite perplexed. He parted the children, taking a few steps towards Mary slowly with concern.
"Mary, you've sneezed," he stated in awe as Michael had. "I've never heard you sneeze in my life! Bless you!"
She sniffed peevishly. "Thank you. Now Bert, there will be no games until after-"
"No games, certainly!" Bert half-laughed. "You've caught yourself a sniffle bug, you have!"
"Oh poppy cock," Mary insisted with a sniff. "Bert, if you're staying, please shut the window before it starts," – she paused, a threatening sneeze subsiding – "starts to rain," she finished muddily.
Bert gave her a lopsided grin, taking in her appearance. She looked less radiant than usual, and her nose was somewhat puffy. She didn't look too eager to do anything, but she was already making the beds. After ten seconds of silence, Mary sneezed again with a momentary shudder. Bert looked down at the two children, and they silently agreed that she wasn't fooling any of them.
"Sniffle bug, indeed," he muttered, walking over to Mary. He gently relieved her of the bed sheets, putting an arm behind her. "Michael, fetch some tea."
"Oh don't be ridiculous," Mary scoffed. "I haven't put the kettle on yet. Besides, it is no time for tea. The beds need made, the study dusted, the dishes washed… achoo!"
"The dishes can wait," Bert urged.
"And just what do you expect supper to be served on?" Mary asked expectantly.
"I'll do the dishes."
"I'll do the dishes," Mary said. "You're filthy."
Bert heaved, speaking firmly. "Mary, you're not yourself today, and I can prove it."
"Wh- what are you talking about? Achoo!"
"Jane, where's her bag?" Bert asked.
"Beside the rocking chair," the young girl replied, running to get it. She lifted the weightless bag and sat it on her bed. Michael came over as well, intrigued. Bert went through the carpetbag immediately, and Mary stood slightly surprised.
"What are you- achoo!"
"A ha!" Bert said triumphantly, pulling out her coiled tape measure. "God bless you."
"Thank you… Oh, now what are you going to do with that?" she asked as he let it roll out to its full length and held it up to her. "You need just merely ask and I- achoo!"
"Thank you – and I can tell you that I'm… I'm… ACHOO!"
Bert nodded at the reading of the tape measure pensively. "As I suspected," he said. "Under the Weather!" Mary turned around as the children looked on.
"Impossible," she said.
"Possible," Bert countered. He showed her the tape measure, and Michael and Jane stood on their tiptoes for a look at the tape. Directly below Mary's typical reading of 'Practically Perfect' was Bert's finger pressed beside 'Under the Weather.'
"Bless you!" Michael piped.
"When you're not feelin' well, your shoulders tend to sag a bit," Bert said, answering her unspoken question. "All that weariness and work is weighing you down, so naturally you'll be a little shorter."
Mary sniffed with an irritable huff. "This is absurd. I'm Mary Poppins. I'm Practically Perfect! I have too much to do to be sitting around and… and-"
This sneeze was the loudest of them all. Bert, Michael, and Jane cringed at it, eyes shut tight. After she sniffed, they stood straight, their eyes opening cautiously. Bert gave Michael a look.
"Tea," he said as Mary shook her head in objection. As Michael left the room obediently, Bert led Mary to the bedside. "Jane, pull down those covers there-"
"You're not serious," Mary said, stopping instantly. She gave him an incredulous look. "There is far too much to be done! I have obligations to do and children to take care of- achoo!"
She buckled under the sneeze, and Bert steadied her. He chuckled at her determination as he pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her. Well her determination was futile today.
"You mind as well rest, Mary," Bert said. "You're not lifting one little magic finger today if I have anything to do with it."
Mary opened her mouth to protest, but another sneeze was issued, this time into Bert's handkerchief. "I know you can't help but be a busybody," Bert said, "but every nanny needs her rest."
He gave her a stern eye, set in his ways. "Even you, Mary Poppins."
Mary stood her ground firmly and stubbornly. No way was Mary Poppins going to do such a thing as spend the day in bed! She had her rest last night, even if it was not the greatest. She gave Bert an even glare, and he raised his eyebrows as her nose began to tickle. He gave her credit for fighting it off for a good four seconds, but the powerful sneeze prevailed, and she fell onto the bed.
Bert smiled apologetically at her as her shoulders slumped and she blew her nose into the handkerchief. The chimney sweep sat down beside her carefully.
"Your nose is brighter than a cherry," he observed in a quiet tone. "And the stars in your eyes are dim."
"So long as they don't go out, we'll be fine," Mary pressed. "Now re- re- achoo!"
"Bless you," Bert and Jane said in unison.
She groaned a little as she lifted her face out of the handkerchief miserably. "Thank you."
"Now is the lovely Miss Poppins ready to cooperate yet?"
"No. Nor will she."
Bert looked up at the clock on the nursery wall. "Oh, I beg to differ."Three-
"Beg all you want, but I'm staying on my feet-"Two-
The cuckoo bird popped out of the clock eight times, and Bert smiled at Mary cleverly. Michael appeared in the door with a tray of tea, cream, and sugar, his eyes widening at yet another loud sneeze from his nanny.
"God bless you!"
She sighed miserably as the cuckoo bird cuckooed the last time, sniffing quickly. "Oh, hand me my umbrella!" she demanded. Jane ran over to the rocking chair to fetch it as Mary leaned over her bag, pulling out paper and an elaborate quill. She neatly penned a brief message. Bert tried to read it, but she folded it too quickly.
"What's that for?" he asked as Jane handed Mary her umbrella. Mary turned it upside down, the green parrot head facing her.
"A request for Cinnamon Cider," she declared, "from Uncle Albert."
Bert's eyes lit up as she put the note into green parrot's mouth. "Really?" he asked in astonishment. He sat back, giving a low whistle. "You are Under the Weather."
"Why is it special?" Michael asked.
"Yes; we have cider."
"It's a Mary Poppins thing," Bert whispered knowingly with a wink. "A little cure-all to get the stars shinin' bright in her eyes again."
As the parrot head snapped its beak shut, Mary gave it a sharp look. "Deliver this immediately," she told it. "I can't be off my feet all day. Jane, dear, take this to the window and open it."
She did, Michael and Bert following after her. She pushed out the window glass and held the umbrella outside, opening it over the street. She looked back at Mary who nodded encouragingly.
"Let it go."
Jane's hand released it, and the rising winds sent the umbrella up. It sailed towards the looming clouds on the horizon as lightning flashed and thunder faintly rolled.
"What if it doesn't make it?" Michael asked.
Bert sighed, coaxing the children away from the window. "It'll make it," he said, looking over a Mary perched on the edge of the bed still. She smiled briefly, but a sneeze stole it away.
"Bless you," Bert said, sitting next to her.
x x x
Soon the rain poured from the sky, and Mary's sneezes also intensified. Bert and the children had somehow eased her into bed – probably at the point where she sneezed so often she couldn't get a word in edgewise to protest. The important thing, however, was that they managed to relieve her of a day of housework.
Now, about an hour later, rain continued to come down immensely. Bert parted the curtains and looked up at the dark sky until a flash of lightning sent him jumping away from the window. A long roll of thunder followed.
"Guess I'm out of a job for the day," he laughed, heading over to Mary's bedside. He took the chair from the desk and placed it beside the bed, sitting on it backwards. Mary sipped her second cup of tea patiently, still upset that she was in bed. She then promptly sneezed again, almost spilling her tea.
"I'll take that," Bert said nervously, taking it from her. She sniffed in the handkerchief. "Have you ever had a cold before?" he asked as he placed the tea on the nightstand. "Ever?"
"Nothing ever this unpleasant," she said. "Achoo!"
She sighed. "Bert, hand me my bag." He sat it on the bed between the two of them, and she began to go through it. "I'm in need of another handkerchief I'm afraid."
"When do you think Uncle Albert's cider will arrive?" he asked.
She sneezed into her handkerchief.
"I… I don't know," she said, looking over at the window sourly. "The weather is muddling my hopes of getting better, and I mustn't allow it because… because…"
Bert tossed his head aside at the reoccurring truism. "Because Practically Perfect people-"
"-never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking."
"Exactly!" Mary said.
"But you're not Practically Perfect at the moment!"
"A fine argument, Bert, but I'm as close as one gets," Mary retorted.
Bert nodded. "True."
Suddenly, the two of them heard loud footsteps racing up the staircase and looked up. Jane and Michael came to the door short of breath.
"Goodness, what's the matter?" Mary asked.
"Nothing at all!" Michael panted. "Guess what!"
"We have found a dog out on the stair!" Jane said excitedly.
Bert smiled in amusement as Mary's face went pale.
Bert rose. "Have you?"
"Yes!" Michael said. "He's very wet and lonely."
"And he looks hungry," Jane added.
"Bless you," all three said without looking up.
Mary shook off the affects of the sneeze, quickly trying to remove the covers in panic as they continued talking about the dog.
"He's hungry?" Bert asked as they went to leave the room. "Well let's have a look and maybe toss him a bone."
"And if he's in too bad a shape, we'll bring him in out of the rain."
"No!" Mary half-shouted, still being ignored.
Then, her fear became realized as a loud barking sounded from within the walls of the house and made its way up the stairs. Bert shouted with the children as a large shaggy mutt dripping with rainwater and mud passed up the nursery door and ran down the hallway. The children and Bert ran after it immediately (Michael grabbing a butterfly net before leaving the room) as Mary's face fell in dismay. She closed her eyes, falling back into the bed with her hands covering her face.
What a disaster of a day, she thought in exhaustion. And it has barely begun!
Down the hall, Michael, Jane, and Bert had the rambunctious dog cornered, trying to calm it down before it broke anything or got any more mud anywhere. The children laughed despite the situation.
"Good doggy," Bert said cautiously, bent in a stance to catch the dog if it tried to run. "Sit. Sit!"
Michael then set the net upon the dog, trapping its head within it. "Gotcha!"
The dog barked, breaking out of the corner with the net still over its head, dragging Michael with him.
"Michael! Let go!" Jane yelled.
As the dog turned the corner to run down the stairs, Michael let go, skidding hard into the wall with a sound 'oomph!' The dog ran wild downstairs barking mad, and Bert and Jane went after it again. They found it chewing up the handle of the butterfly net, trying to escape. Jane went to shout, but Bert put a restraining hand on her shoulder. She let Bert go forward, and he knelt beside the lively dog.
"Hey, hey! It's okay, boy!" Bert said, quick to remove the net and pet the wet dog. "There we go, poochie," he said with a successful smile, continuing to pet the dog in relief that it had stopped running ramped. Jane came forward to pet the dog, and Michael did so as well after coming down the stairs. Bert looked around the ruined room tiredly.
"Your parents would have a fit," he said to the children matter-of-factly. Not to mention he wondered how Mary was taking it upstairs.
"Can we keep him?" Jane asked.
Bert sighed. "It's not my place to tell you that, but take him upstairs and clean him up for now," he bargained. "Get some food in 'im, too, and then we have a house to clean."
"Yes, sir," Michael said. He and his sister went back up the stairs, the dog following playfully. "What should we name him?"
"I don't know…"
Bert sighed as they went in to the bathroom and shut the door. He looked around, his own shoulders drooping. Mud tracked from the front door all the way up the stairs in a filthy mess. The rugs were bunched up, a table had been knocked over, and rain was blowing in through the front door. He made a face as he ran over to close the door, wondering how Mary possibly did it all.
x x x
At the lunch hour, most of the mud had been removed from the house thanks to the hard work of Bert and the Banks children. Though all the while, they wished Uncle Albert's cider would magically appear despite the wretched storm.
When it was finally all clean in every corner, they returned to the nursery to eat with Mary (potato soup; her favorite Bert had correctly recalled). The scruffy mutt that had caused the big upheaval of the morning (now properly titled Prince Edward) was sitting with Jane and Michael in front of the dollhouse lapping soup from his own bowl, the children giggling. Mary huffed disapprovingly at the sight, shaking her head as she ate a spoonful of soup.
"Ah, come on, Mary," Bert said from the chair beside her bed. "Kids love dogs, and dogs love kids. Especially kids in a good warm home with food. Fact of life."
"Their parents will be furious with me… Achoo!"
"Thank you." Mary sat up in bed straighter as the dog splashed some soup on the floor. "Do be careful!" she reprimanded. "Anymore mess from him and he's out. And I don't care how much it's raining."
"His name is Prince Edward," Jane said to her nanny. "He's a good dog now."
"Hard to believe in only two hours," Mary said with a touch of sarcasm. "Prince or not, his entrance was unacceptable and certainly unexpected."
"But not unwanted!" Michael said as the large white dog with gray spots finished off the last of its soup. He stood with Jane, and they left the room together to do the dishes. Prince Edward followed them down the stairs to the kitchen and out of sight. Mary sneezed yet again.
The exhausted nanny leaned back into her pile of pillows, lowering her handkerchief at her side lifelessly. Her head lolled back and forth a few times with discomfort, and Bert reached out to touch her forehead. He held it there with a displeased expression surfacing as Mary settled.
"Fever," he stated plainly, removing his hand. "Not good."
"Oh, it's hardly a fever," Mary said, playing it down.
"Maybe you should take a blanket off," he suggested. He began to pull the top one down, but Mary grabbed it, covering herself back up.
"No," she said quickly. "I'm chilled."
Bert frowned with concern. Hopefully a doctor would not have to be called. "Lie back down. I'll be right back." He jumped up and dashed to the bathroom, wetting a cold washcloth. He returned to the nursery and placed it on Mary's forehead gently.
"There. Now you rest," Bert said. "If you don't you'll be 'Submerged by the Weather,' and there'll be no telling how we'll get you better, especially if we don't even know how you got sick in the first place." He paused. "I wish that umbrella of yours would crash through that window right now."
Mary smiled up at her dear friend. He was doing so much to ensure she stay well rested and in bed, and it struck a chord in her heart, her aching body momentarily warming. She patted his hand before sleep took her again.
"Thank you, Bert."
He smiled after she shut her eyes, watching her with a longing that constantly tugged at him whenever she worked her magic. And not just her firework kind of magic; he loved it most when she was magically human.
I'd do anything for you, Mary Poppins.
As she went silent, he upturned his hand, gently grasping hers. And when the thunder grew softer and the rain tinkled in the gutters above Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, he whispered, "No trouble, love."
x x x
The stormy weather was persistent through the afternoon. Mary slept soundlessly, and Bert sat loyally at her bedside. He occupied himself with an easel, palette, and paintbrush to pass the time, painting with oils instead of chalk for the first time in a long time. He leaned back and tilted his head every so often, determining that it wasn't half bad. Sometimes, the thunder would sound in disagreement and he would only scowl at the roof over his head.
"Oh, it ain't that terrible," he'd say. "I haven't picked up a brush in while, you have to understand. And there's hardly any decent light in the room. I'll leave that to your fault."
The thunder would roll softly in response to that, and Bert would continue painting, every so often resuming his conversation with the outlandish storm. As the afternoon progressed into early evening, the sky darkened more. Under the steady rainfall outside, Bert heard footsteps climbing the stairs for the first time in several hours. He had almost forgotten about the children! Bert laughed to himself - what would Mary have to say to that?
He looked up from the canvas as the nursery door opened. Jane and Michael's silhouettes stood there, Prince Edward shuffling about behind them with audible breath.
"Are we having supper soon?" Michael whispered into the darkening room.
"Ah, well, maybe in an hour or so," Bert answered uncertainly. "Let's wait til Mary's had some sleep, eh?" The children nodded in agreement.
"How is she feeling?" Jane asked.
"I don't know," he replied, casting her a sorrowful look. His hand found her brow again, and it burned it more than before. He grimaced. "Her fever's gettin' worse. Jane, could bring me another cool rag for her head?"
"And Michael, get a cold cup of water. That might help."
They left to retrieve what was asked of them as Bert contemplated very much calling on a doctor. Her cheeks were warm. He lifted the blankets off of her, touching her hand. It was clammy. When Michael and Jane returned, Michael sat the cup of water on the stand and Jane handed the cloth to Bert. He placed it on her head after removing all but one blanket on Mary's sleeping form.
"Thank you," he said.
"Should we call a doctor?" Michael asked hesitantly.
Bert was not quick to answer. She would need one if her condition worsened, but he put it off for now. He stayed optimistic, hoping the umbrella would return soon with the cider in the green parrot's beak.
"Let's see if this helps any first," he said, leaning away from the bed with his eyes still on Mary. He looked over at Jane and Michael sullenly, jerking his head towards the door. "Go on," he said. "Prince Edward awaits your coming, I'll bet." Reluctantly, the children moved towards the door.
"Call us if you need anything," Michael said quietly.
Bert nodded. "I will."
With that, the nursery door shut again. Rain and thunder made their presence known once more as Bert picked up his palette and looked at the painting, distracted. What had caused her to be ill in the first place? Could Mary Poppins even be ill? Was it possible? Would she be able to bounce back from it? Where was that dratted umbrella? What if the stars went out? Did Uncle Albert even get the message? Would it ever come back, or would he have to resort to calling a doctor? He had never seen her so worn, and it honestly scared him.
Probably stuck in a gutter somewhere, he thought sadly.
Despite his state of mind, his arm raised the paintbrush to the canvas and made a few more soft strokes. Soon, he was back into a good stretch of concentration, paying careful attention to detail and such. Then, Mary slowly stirred from beside him. He lowered the paintbrush and turned to her, poised and ready incase he had to do anything.
"Mary! Mary, are you all right?"
Her eyelashes fluttered a few times before opening halfway. She gave a wry face and her hand touched her cheek and the cold cloth on her forehead. Bert helped her to sit up some, placing another pillow behind her head for support.
"Here," he urged, "water."
She sipped it, never losing her Poppins etiquette. Bert took it from her when she was done, waiting to act on her every word. She sneezed as expected.
"Bless you," he said immediately. She wiped her nose in the forgotten handkerchief at her side. "Do you need anything?" Bert was quick to ask. "More water? Something to eat?"
"No," she whispered softly. Bert found it hard to believe.
Mary reclined back into the pillows with her eyes shut, taking a deep breath. They opened again, this time on Bert's painting. She smiled.
"Another masterpiece," she mused fondly. Bert's head whipped around, and he understood. Glad that their conversation was drifting to a more peaceful subject, he ruffled his brow looking upon the nighttime shore of a pond he had painted.
"I know," Mary replied wisely. "I… don't suppose you'll let me out of bed long enough for a short walk?" she asked with a knowing smile. Bert laughed and reminisced as he looked at his new picture.
"Absolutely not," he said. "I'll let you out of bed only if I draw an infirmary."
"I thought so," she giggled. Her smile faded slightly, feeling heat pulse through her cheeks. Bert sensed her discomfort and turned to her again.
"What is it?"
"I'm- achoo! –warm… very warm."
"Ah, you have been," Bert, said. "I think we should call a doctor."
"Nonsense," Mary said, pretending to laugh the idea away. "Uncle Albert's cider is probably on its way now. Me seeing a doctor. What a silly thought."
"Silly or not, you've got a hot fever," Bert said.
"And a bad sneeze!"
"And the cider ain't come yet!"
Then, loud barking filled the house again, and Bert and Mary looked up. Prince Edward was suddenly in the nursery, barking and howling and causing pure mayhem. He jumped on Michael's bed, barking at Bert and Mary.
"Get off the bed!" Mary practically shrieked.
"Shoo!" Bert said, waving his cap at the dog. "Off now!"
Michael and Jane appeared in the doorway as Prince Edwards leapt off the bed, knocking over Bert's painting and the dollhouse. He continued to upset everything and everyone before running out of the room again, Jane and Michael chasing him. Mary closed her mouth at the shocking state of the room (it not being polite at all) as Bert picked up his destroyed painting. His stomach dropped.
"Oh, Bert," Mary said upon seeing it. She sighed. "You can always paint it again."
"I know," he sulked, getting to his feet.
"Where are… are- achoo! –you going?"
"Tying up Prince Edward and getting you a doctor. We can't wait for Uncle Albert anymore."
Mary's eyes went wide, and she pressed her lips together as Bert left the room swiftly, the mangled painting left on the floor. She threw the covers off of herself and quickly strode after him in protest, her body aching terribly. She ignored it, marching to the top of the stairs and coming to a halt.
Bert, Michael, and Jane had Prince Edward corned again. Bert approached him, gently slipping a rope around the dog's neck. He then handed the rope to Michael.
"Tie him up in the kitchen downstairs," he said. "I'll be there in a minute."
The children left as Bert crossed the living room to the telephone on the wall. Mary started down the stairs and pointedly walked up to Bert.
"Yes, may I speak with the doctor?"
Mary appeared at his side. "This is unnecessary," she whispered sternly.
"What are you doing out of bed?"
"Hang up the phone, please, Bert."
"Ah, yes, Doctor? Doctor… Taft, yes. I'm making a house call."
Mary's eyes were growing impatient. "Bert-"
"Well no, she's in bed with a fever and sneeze…" He looked over at Mary's daggered eyes, and he smiled nervously. "Well, she's out of bed now… No I can't bring 'er in; she's ill."
Mary shut her eyes and lifted her head, and Bert quickly held the phone out towards her as she sneezed loudly. He wiped the receiver off on his jacket quickly before bringing it back to his ear.
"Hear that? She's awful."
Mary fought off a nasty glare as he continued to talk to the doctor.
"Yes; yes, for a few hours, she did… I know the storm's bad, but could you come out anyways? Number 17 Cheery Tree Lane. No. Yes, the light'll be lit. Thank you, Doctor."
He hung up and turned to a very silent Mary. She looked miffed but too exhausted to do anything about it. He just sighed.
"Doc says to stay in bed til he gets here," Bert told her.
"I don't care!" Mary implored. "I asked you not to speak with him. My cold is just- just- achoo!"
"Getting worse," Bert finished. "Come on, upstairs with yous."
"Mary, please don't say no again," he said sincerely, "or I'll have to go a little out of line but only 'cause I care a lot."
Her eyebrows furrowed. "What are you talking about?"
"Please go back up to bed?"
Bert promptly scooped her up in his arms, heading for the staircase. Mary looked at him incredulously.
"Put me down!"
"I said I'd do it!"
"You're goin' to rest-"
"-even if your little nose pops off!"
She finally stopped struggling and rolled her eyes with a sigh. Swallowing her pride, she put an arm around his neck reluctantly as he carried her up the last few stairs and into the nursery. Once inside, he put her down on the bed, and she managed a smile.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I know you only mean best."
He returned her tired smile. "Rest. I'm going to go make some of me stew we ain't had in a good long time. Remember it?"
She giggled as he stood in the doorway. "I do."
For a moment, they just watched each other quietly until Mary snuggled back down under the blankets, putting the cool rag back on her hot face. Bert closed the door after he was sure she wasn't going anywhere. As he went to walk away, he heard the soft humming of his chimney sweep song coming from within the room. He grinned and headed downstairs, humming himself.
"Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey, chim chim cher-oo… la dum, da da dum, hm hmm hmm hm hmm…"
x x x
Bert leaned over the large cast iron kettle and inhaled deeply. He held the breath as long as possible, allowing the delicious scent of pepper, beef, tomatoes, and basil to swirl about inside of his lungs. Finally, he released the stale air, taking in a quick one through his mouth to thoroughly taste the scent. It was wonderful.
"Should be only another five minutes," he said to the children and Prince Edward, hitting the wooden spoon off of the kettle with two sharp taps.
"I didn't know you could cook," Jane said, peering into the giant kettle.
"I can cook two things," Bert said to Jane and Michael. "Me dad's old stew," – he tapped the pot twice again – "and a cold sandwich." Jane and Michael laughed with him, still sniffing the addictive aroma of the stew. Bert looked at it closely, and his eyes narrowed.
"Maybe it could use a little more flour," he mused. "Looks a little thin."
"Got it!" Michael ran over, picking up the large bag of flour. Jane and Bert rushed to help as he struggled under its weight.
"No wait, Michael..."
"Hang on, we've-"
But the bag slipped out of all grasp in the confusion. It thumped to the floor, and a cloud of white flour billowed upwards, filling the kitchen. All three of them coughed, coughed, and coughed more until the flour settled, coating everything in the kitchen – including them and the stew.
A very white Bert, Michael, and Jane looked into the pot sadly as Bert lifted the wooden spoon and stirred in the flour that sat on top of the simmering stew. "Well," he sighed, "at least it's not thin anymore."
"Can we still eat it?" Jane asked, blinking some flour out of her eye.
"It won't be in it's prime, but o' course you can," Bert said. "How about a quick change, though? Go on, upstairs."
They went up into the living room, and Bert opened the front door. Michael and Jane stopped on the stairs in confusion.
"What are you doing?"
Bert smiled. "Washin' off."
He jumped out into the downpour, the white flour disappearing under the heavy rain. Jane and Michael's faces lit up as Bert became normal-colored again in less than five seconds. They went back down the stairs and joined him outside spinning around and laughing as the rainfall soaked them clear through in an instant.
"Jump in big one!" Bert said. He leaped into a large puddle right beside them, splashing water everywhere. He left to find others while Michael and Jane repeatedly jumped up and down in the same puddle together.
Bert swung around a slippery lamppost, enjoying the rain on his face, sleeves, and hat. He clung to it and slid off, hopping through a series of puddles until he met Michael and Jane again in the middle of the street. Together, all three of them splashed and laughed at the same time. Thunder cracked and lightning flashed, but no never mind; it was the rain they wanted.
Prince Edward was now at the front door barking at them. Bert wondered briefly how he got out and knew it would ruin his new appearance, but he beckoned the dog out of the house anyways.
"Come on, Eddy!" he laughed. "Come on!"
The dog ran outside, running around everywhere until he looked as if the Banks children had never taken him in that morning. He leapt onto Bert, and the chimney sweep sat up, patting Prince Edward on the head.
"Hooray for us!" he said. "We're filthy, cold, soakin' wet, and in the street as we should be," he laughed, messing up the dog's wet and matted fur. Prince Edward jumped up on his hind legs as Bert stood, and suddenly, a loud voice sounded over the thunder.
They looked up, seeing Mary in the doorway now. The fun in his slippery step suddenly vanished, and Bert headed for the door, wondering what on earth Mary was out of bed for again. Mary rushed across the street however, still only in her day dress. The children went over to her, and she looked at them, utterly appalled.
"What is going on?" she demanded.
"We're washing off," Michael said.
"Mary, please go back inside," Bert urged. "You shouldn't be-"
"Oh, you're all going to catch your deaths out here," Mary said fearfully. "Your father is going to be furious!"
"Where's your coat?" Bert yelled at her over the thunder.
"Where's your common sense?" Mary asked him. "Bringing them out here like this and encouraging- achoo!"
"Mary, come on!" Bert took her wrist as the winds suddenly picked up in a different direction, blowing rain hard against their faces. Jane and Michael ran for the house with Prince Edward, but the winds blew harder. Bert let go of Mary, and she fell back into a deep puddle.
She sat up slowly, dripping and soaked as much as him. "Achoo!"
Bert took her around the waist, trying to help her stand. A few strands of hair were coming out of her now watery bun.
"Mary? Get up!"
Then, something hit into her shoulder gently. She brought her hand out of the puddle and touched Bert's arm, looking at the thing beside her. Both she and Bert looked at it curiously for a minute.
Mary reached out, picking up her umbrella.
She closed it quickly, turning it upside down to examine the green parrot head. She brought it closer to her face, the rain limiting her eyesight. Bert's face was next to hers as the green parrot head opened its beak and dropped a tiny glass vial of brown liquid into her hand. Uncle albert has pulled through.
"Is that it?" Bert asked. "It's not much."
"Yes," she said. "It's very strong."
Bert took her umbrella and opened it over them. The small shelter from the heavy storm helped sight matters, and Mary uncorked the little vial. A fresh scent of cinnamon was emitted, and Bert watched in wonder as she downed it with a graceful tip of her head. Once it was empty, her eyes closed drowsily, and she fell limp against Bert's shoulder.
"No… ah… Mary. Mary?"
He closed the umbrella and held the parrot's head to his jacket sleeve. "Hold on," he told it. The parrot's beak bit down on his coat, and he picked Mary up again, carrying her across the street back into the warm house. Jane and Michael stood dripping in the living room next to the sofa, and Bert laid Mary there.
"Strong stuff all right," he muttered. "Knocked her out."
"Now what do we do?" Michael asked.
"I'd suggest you go change," Bert said. "I'll… air dry." He flapped the sides of his coat awkwardly.
Jane and Michael were about to go upstairs when Mary stirred slowly. Bert became attentive again, sitting down beside her as she sat up.
"Mary? Are you all right?"
She opened her eyes calmly and looked around. They rested on the front door, and waved her hand at it loosely. It shut. Jane and Michael smiled, and the corners of Bert's mouth tugged upward into an admirable grin. He touched her jaw with his wet finger, bringing her to face him. Bert stared at her.
"The stars are back," he said.
"Of course," Mary said. "Uncle Albert's Cinnamon Cider never fails."
His lopsided grin grew slightly. "You're Practically Perfect again, I'd wager."
"What else would I be?" Mary laughed.
Bert opened his mouth to reply, but a violent sneeze erupted instead. Mary shut her eyes tightly, and Bert opened one of his nervously.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly.
Mary blinked a few times until she heard Jane sneeze. She and Bert looked over, and Michael did the same, heightening Bert's eyebrows in surprise even more. Then, Prince Edward sneezed, sending water droplets all over.
"I thought so," Mary said with a sigh. "Come on, out of those wet things. The doctor will be here any minute."
They ran upstairs as told. Bert watched Mary transform back into her natural nanny self as she got up from the sofa and walked around with her prim posture. She took a blanket from the linen cupboard and opened it, throwing it over Bert's shoulders. He sneezed again.
"Bless you," she said, waving the muddy paw prints from Prince Edward away. She somehow conveniently had a cup of tea with her and handed it to Bert.
He watched her wet form walk behind the couch, but when he turned his head over the other shoulder, her dress was perfectly dry again, wrinkle free and lovely.
Within a few more seconds, the living room was spotless and tidy as customary for the Banks household. Bert leaned back into the sofa, sniffing and holding the warm cup of tea in his cold hands as Mary once again bustled about. She headed down into the kitchen. He looked up the ceiling, a pressure developing inside his head. He pinched his eyes shut and moaned inwardly. Couldn't she have saved a little cider for him?
He let time drift out of thought and thought drift away completely. Save for Mary. He always thought about her. During his spacious time, Jane and Michael had come back downstairs and sat on either side of him wrapped in a thick blanket much like he was. As Mary came back upstairs, Bert opened his eyes, reacquainting himself with light and his surroundings. He sneezed. Michael sneezed.
"Bless you," they said to each other.
Mary came over, gently setting a warm bowl in their hands.
"I thought you'd want your supper," she said, passing out utensils now.
Then, a knock came at the door. The three occupants of the couch looked up as Mary went for the door. It was the doctor. Rain blew inside, wind whistled.
"Come in," Mary encouraged.
The doctor stepped in, closing his beaten umbrella and shedding is drenched coat and hat. He looked Mary over.
"Are you my patient?" he asked, puzzled.
"Oh, no, Doctor, those are your patients," Mary said quickly, motioning towards the couch. "Sniffles and high fevers, each and every one of them."
Bert, Michael, and Jane sat their bowls in their laps, feeling their faces. They were feverish! And they felt absolutely miserable! Jane's throat was sore, Bert's head pounded, and Michael had a chill. Then, all three sneezed loudly in unison. Doctor Taft looked ay Mary.
"I don't think it's anything major, though," Mary said nonchalantly. "They're just feeling a little under the weather."
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