Once, his sister whispered to him privately, after a
dinner they had refused to eat, "I liked it."
But Tim glared at her and replied, "It was stuffed
cabbage. You are not allowed to like stuffed cabbage."
"All right," Jane said with a sigh. She went to bed
hungry and dreamed, as she often did, about becoming
older and more self-assured so that someday she
could play whatever game she liked or eat any food
Their lives proceeded in exactly the way lives proceeded
in old-fashioned stories.
One day they even found a baby on their doorstep.
This happens quite often in old-fashioned stories.
The Bobbsey Twins, for example, found a baby on
their doorstep once. But it had never happened to
the Willoughbys before. The baby was in a wicker
basket and wearing a pink sweater that had a note
attached to it with a safety pin.
"I wonder why Father didn't notice it when he left
for work," Barnaby A said, looking down at the basket,
which was blocking the front steps to their house
when the four children set out one morning to take
a walk in the nearby park.
"Father is obliviousyou know that," Tim pointed
out. "He steps over any obstructions. I expect he
poked it aside." They all looked down at the basket
and at the baby, which was sound asleep.
They pictured their father taking a high step over
it after moving it slightly out of his way with his
furled black umbrella.
"We could set it out for the trash collector,"
Barnaby B suggested. "If you take one handle, A, and
I take the other, I believe we could get it down the
stairs without much trouble. Are babies heavy?"
"Please, could we read the note?" asked Jane, trying
to use the self-assured voice that she practiced in
The note was folded over so that the writing could
not be seen.
"I don't think it's necessary," Tim replied.
"I believe we should," Barnaby B said. "It could
possibly say something important."
"Perhaps there is a reward for finding the baby,"
Barnaby A suggested. "Or it might be a ransom
"You dolt!" Tim said to him. "Ransom notes are
sent by the ones who have the baby."
"Maybe we could send one, then," said Barnaby A.
"Perhaps it says the baby's name," said Jane. Jane was
very interested in names because she had always felt
she had an inadequate one, with too few syllables. "I
would like to know its name."
The baby stirred and opened its eyes.
"I suppose the note might give instructions about
babies," Tim said, peering down at it. "It might say
where to put them if you find one."
The baby began to whimper and then very quickly
the whimper changed to a yowl.
"Or," said Barnaby B, holding his ears, "how to
keep them from screeching."
"If the note doesn't tell the name, may I name it?"
"What would you name it?" Barnaby A asked with
Jane frowned. "Something with three syllables, I
think," she said. "Babies deserve three syllables."
"Brittany?" Barnaby A asked.
"Possibly," Jane replied.
"Madonna?" Barnaby B suggested.
"No," Jane said. "Taffeta, I think."
By now the baby was waving its fists, kicking its
chubby legs, and crying loudly. The Willoughbys' cat
appeared at the front door, gazed briefly down at the
basket, twitched its whiskers, and then dashed back
inside as if it was made nervous by the sound. The
baby did sound a bit like a yowling kitten; perhaps
that was why.
Tim finally reached down past the flailing little fists
and unpinned the note. He read it silently. "The
usual," he said to the others. "Pathetic. Just what I
He read it aloud to them. "'I chose this house
because it looks as if a happy, loving family lives here,
prosperous enough to feed another child. I am very
poor, alas. I have fallen on hard times and cannot care
for my dear baby. Please be good to her.'"
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...