Little Nicholas giggled at his young cousin and earned immediate censure from his mother. Any attempt to run away and play outside was brought to an abrupt halt as his mother pulled up his brand new pants and tucked in his smart shirt. Given that Nicholas was a natural wriggler who found it hard to stand still, the task took twice as long, but eventually he was dressed.
Opposite, Little Heath, who was being put through similar torture from his own mother was not best pleased at being laughed at by his cousin. At three years old, he no more appreciated being put in new clothes than Nicholas did, and he fought equally hard to get away from the hands that were holding him still.
When Nicholas laughed at him, he crossed his short arms defiantly in a gesture reminiscent of his father. Immediately, his little arms were put down by his side, so even his protest proved short-lived. And now his mother was brushing his hair! Could this get any worse?
Opposite, his Aunt Meg was doing the same with Nicholas and now it was Little Heath's turn to giggle as his cousin's hair was dampened down by his mother's wet fingers so it would stay set in a certain way. Every time Meg dabbed her mouth to fix it a certain way, Nicholas would try to pull it straight, but it was a losing battle and eventually he gave up to allow his mother to have her way.
"There," Meg and Jenny said in unison as both boys were dressed. "You'll do." Meg added. "Now, sit down on the sofa both of you and don't move an inch. We'll be leaving shortly so don't get dirty before we leave, " Both boys nodded obediently as their mothers left the room to see to their other children.
Nicholas sat down on the sofa with the ease that his longer legs afforded, whilst Little Heath had to climb up as his legs were not quite long enough. As he reached a pivotal point which could have seen him go either way, Nicholas lent a helping hand and pulled him up by his new pants, creating a noisy tear as he did so.
"Oops!" Nicholas observed with a dead pan delivery that he was unaware rivaled his father's. With growing panic, Nicholas inspected the tear on the seat of Little Heath's pants whilst Little Heath's chubby hand searched out the cause for the sudden cool breeze on his bottom.
Nicholas studied the pickle they were in long and hard. There was no doubting Little Heath had a hole in his pants. There was no doubt he in his enthusiasm to help his cousin had caused the tear. And there was equally no doubt he was going to get a telling off from his mother and aunt for ruining Little Heath's new pants, even though his intentions were well meant. Question was, what was he and Little Heath to do about it?
Nicholas found that thinking took some time, especially when the solution didn't come easy, and whilst he was deep in thought, Little Heath turned him self around and sat down by his cousin. Unaware of the impending gravity of the situation he kicked his feet in mid-air and clapped his hands together rather noisily as he waited for Nicholas to speak.
Suddenly, their mothers reappeared along with their fathers. From the front both boys' appearances pleased their mothers, but earned sympathy from their more understanding fathers. Frilly shirts and pantaloons had no place on their sons, but neither man felt brave enough to countermand their wives.
"Right you two, let's be having you" Jenny Barkley said, motioning towards the door and the waiting buggy.
Forgetting the hole in his pants, Little Heath scrambled off the sofa, thankful that he could at last move. Nicholas' hand went to his open mouth as he realized what Little Heath had done and worse that Uncle Nick had seen the flapping hole in his son's pants. He was sure for it now! He'd be lucky if he saw the outside of his room for a week once his parents had finished telling him off. And then there was Uncle Nick. Maybe he wouldn't let him see Little Heath again!
Nick seeing his little son's plight and realizing what must have happened, quickly suppressed a smile and scooped up his son, placing a hand under the offending tear, making sure his wife was none the wiser. Little Nicholas visibly sighed with relief and relaxed even more when his Uncle Nick gave him a knowing wink and announced: "How about you sticking with me Pardner, today." Little Heath who had completely forgotten about the hole in his pants, nodded enthusiastically at the prospect of being with his father. Nicholas slid off the sofa to follow, but was stopped abruptly by his father's hand on his shoulder.
"Son, you and I will talk later," his father whispered into his ear.
"Yes, sir," Nicholas gulped, thinking, "I'm definitely for it now!"
As his subdued son walked away to the awaiting buggy, Heath smiled, thinking he would be having this conversation with Little Nicholas several times over the coming years.