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How the Alphabet Was Made_Just So Stories for Little Children

 THE week after Taffimai Metallumai (we will still call her Taffy, Best Beloved) made that little mistake about her Daddy’s spear and the Stranger-man and the picture-letter and all, she went carp-fishing again with her Daddy. Her Mummy wanted her to stay at home and help hang up hides to dry on the big drying-poles outside their Neolithic Cave, but Taffy slipped away down to her Daddy quite early, and they fished. Presently she began to giggle, and her Daddy said, ‘Don’t be silly, child.’

‘But wasn’t it inciting!’ said Taffy. ‘Don’t you remember how the Head Chief puffed out his cheeks, and how funny the nice Stranger-man looked with the mud in his hair?’

‘Well do I,’ said Tegumai. ‘I had to pay two deerskins — soft ones with fringes — to the Stranger-man for the things we did to him.’

‘We didn’t do anything,’ said Taffy. ‘It was Mummy and the other Neolithic ladies — and the mud.’

‘We won’t talk about that,’ said her Daddy, ‘Let’s have lunch.’

Taffy took a marrow-bone and sat mousy-quiet for ten whole minutes, while her Daddy scratched on pieces of birch-bark with a shark’s tooth. Then she said, ‘Daddy, I’ve thinked of a secret surprise. You make a noise — any sort of noise.’

‘Ah!’ said Tegumai. ‘Will that do to begin with?’

‘Yes,’ said Taffy. ‘You look just like a carp-fish with its mouth open. Say it again, please.’

‘Ah! ah! ah!’ said her Daddy. ‘Don’t be rude, my daughter.’

‘I’m not meaning rude, really and truly,’ said Taffy. ‘It’s part of my secret-surprise-think. Do say ah, Daddy, and keep your mouth open at the end, and lend me that tooth. I’m going to draw a carp-fish’s mouth wide-open.’

‘What for?’ said her Daddy.

‘Don’t you see?’ said Taffy, scratching away on the bark. ‘That will be our little secret s’prise. When I draw a carp-fish with his mouth open in the smoke at the back of our Cave — if Mummy doesn’t mind — it will remind you of that ah-noise. Then we can play that it was me jumped out of the dark and s’prised you with that noise — same as I did in the beaver-swamp last winter.’

‘Really?’ said her Daddy, in the voice that grown-ups use when they are truly attending. ‘Go on, Taffy.’

‘Oh bother!’ she said. ‘I can’t draw all of a carp-fish, but I can draw something that means a carp-fish’s mouth. Don’t you know how they stand on their heads rooting in the mud? Well, here’s a pretence carp-fish (we can play that the rest of him is drawn). Here’s just his mouth, and that means ah.’ And she drew this. (1.)

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