Response to reviewer: Dinah and Dorinda are not twins. Dinah is two years older than Dorinda. However, thank you for your very kind words. Reviews are always appreciated.
It was a cold and sunny morning, and the road to Midmeddlecum was lined by great beech trees, leafless now because it was winter, the branches of which threw a tangle of thin shadows from side to side. It was a pleasant walk, and no more than half a mile, but neither Dinah nor Dorinda enjoyed it very much. Since they had taken to eating such a lot, they had had no time for walking, and they had not been to Midmeddlecum for several weeks. And now, being so fat and round, they could hardly walk at all, so their mother and Miss Serendip had to push them along. Sometimes they rolled and sometimes they bounced, and before they had gone very far they were covered with dust and extremely hot..
"I don't know what people will think, or what they will say," said Mrs. Palfrey, "when they see us pushing Dinah and Dorinda in this absurd and ridiculous manner. Perhaps we should not have come to the village. It might have been better to ask Dr. Fosfar to see the children at home."
And she gave Dinah another push that sent her rolling along the pavement of the main street of Midmeddlecum.
"Let us hope that everybody is indoors, and will stay there," said Miss Serendip, and gave Dinah a push that made her bounce three times on the pavement.
There was, indeed, nobody to be seen on the street, but that was not because the people were all at home. It was too fine a day for that, and the whole population of the village was in the Square where Dr. Fosfar lived.
It so happened that the Vicar had come to buy a bottle of hair dye from Mr. Wax the chemist. His hair, he thought, was turning red, which was a most unsuitable color for a Vicar, and he was on his way to purchase a bottle of strong black dye when, in the square, he met the four sons of Mr. Leathercow the butcher; the three daughters of Mr. Crumb the baker; Robin and Robina, the twin children of Mr. Wax the chemist; and Mrs. Fullalove the grocer's wife, who was giving them all sugar plums because Christmas was coming.
It suddenly occurred to the Vicar that for at least two days he had not heard anybody singing, and because he was extremely fond of fine songs and choruses, he called to the children and Mrs. Fullalove and said, "I think it would be a good thing if we all sang The Barley Mow."
Mrs. Fullalove, who had a pretty voice herself, at once agreed, and so did the children.
"Now all together!" exclaimed the Vicar. "'Here's a health to the Barley Mow, my boys, A health to the Barley Mow!'"
By the time they had finished that, there were 48 people and 7 dogs in the Square. So then they started Drink to me only with thine eyes, and the lovely tune, sung very loudly, brought 63 other people and 18 more dogs.
Climbing on to the statue of Queen Victoria, which stood in the middle of the Square, the Vicar, who by this time was very excited, shouted, "And now a magnificent song that everybody knows! John Peel! Open your lips, let the welkin ring! Open your hearts, it's a song for a king! 'D'ye ken John Peel with his coat so gray...'"
So great was the noise, and so beautiful, of John Peel being sung by 111 people, all as loudly as they could, and of 25 dogs all beating the ground with their tails in perfect time, that everybody else in the village of Midmeddlecum came hurrying to join them. And when the whole population was in the Square, the Vicar made them sing Funiculì Funiculà.
This was about the time when Mrs. Palfrey and Miss Serendip and Dinah and Dorinda came into the village, and of course they met nobody in the streets because everybody was in the Square. They could hear the people singing Funiculì Funiculà, and Dinah and Dorinda went bouncing along the pavement - bop-bump, bump-bop - in time with the tune of it. Then the song came to an end, and for a while there was almost silence in the Square, because some people wanted to sing Widdicombe Fair, and others thought they should sing the Volga Boat Song, and the Vicar himself was in favor of Fain would I change that note. So they could not make up their minds which to choose.
Then Dinah and Dorinda came bounding into the Square, and a little way behind them appeared Mrs. Palfrey and Miss Serendip.
Tom Leathercow, the butcher's oldest son, was standing on the outskirts of the crowd, and beside him were Catherine Crumb, the baker's daughter, and Robin and Robina Wax. As soon as they saw Dinah and Dorinda, they all shouted at once, "Balloons, balloons, balloons! Look at the big balloons!"
Every child in the Square at once hurried and thrust and scrambled and pushed a way through the crowd, and in less than a minute Dinah and Dorinda were entirely surrounded by 50 or 60 boys and girls, all shouting, "Balloons, balloons, look at the big balloons!"
Then the older people followed the children, and they also gathered round Dinah and Dorinda, and were very much surprised by their appearance.
The Vicar remained on the statue of Queen Victoria, but nobody paid any attention to him now except Mrs. Fullalove, who had climbed up in order to ask him if they could sing Lily of Laguna. And Mrs. Palfrey and Miss Serendip were on the other side of the crowd, and could not get near to Dinah and Dorinda.
Now it so happened that Catherine Crumb, the baker's daughter, had just bought a packet of pins from Mr. Taper the draper. She had very black hair, a white face, and long thin legs. She was quite pretty, but she had a wicked heart. Taking the packet of pins from her pocket, she gave some to Tom Leathercow, and some to Robin and Robina Wax, and told them to give pins to every other boy and girl in the crowd.
Then she said loudly, "If they really are balloons, they ought to burst!" And she stuck a pin into Dorinda.
Tom Leathercow stuck a pin into Dinah, and all the other children cried "Burst the balloons!" And those who were nearest Dorinda stuck pins into her, while others pricked Dinah.
Dinah and Dorinda began to cry. They cried so loudly that everyone was amazed, and all the dogs began to bark.
Mrs. Leathercow the butcher's wife caught hold of Tom and boxed his ears. Mrs. Taper the draper's wife, who was very short-sighted, seized Robin and Robina Wax, thinking they were her own children, and knocked their heads together. So Mrs. Wax pulled Mrs. Taper's hair, and Mr. Taper was thrown to the ground by Mr. Crumb, who stood very firmly on his wooden leg and hit everyone within reach. Some of the children were still sticking pins into Dinah and Dorinda, who cried louder than ever, and 17 dogs began to fight in 8 different parts of the Square, while every other dog was barking with all his might to encourage them.
Mrs. Fullalove fell off the statue of Queen Victoria, but luckily fell on Mr. Horrabin the iron-monger, who was very fat and saved her from being hurt. The Vicar shouted, "Peace, peace! Silence is golden!" But no one could hear him, so no one paid any attention.
Then Constable Drum, the village policeman, blew his whistle. The first time he blew it, all the older people stopped quarreling and looked around to see what was happening. The second time he blew it, the children stopped shouting and stuck no more pins into Dinah and Dorinda. The third time he blew it, the dogs stopped barking, and all was quiet.
"In the King's name!" shouted Constable Drum. "If you do not behave yourselves, I shall put you all in prison. Let there be no more rioting, roistering, brawling or biting, barking or fighting. Be good people and go to your homes. Whoever is late for his luncheon shall feel the weight of my truncheon! God save the King!"
So all the people went home, feeling very much ashamed of themselves, and Mrs. Palfrey and Miss Serendip did what they could to comfort Dinah and Dorinda. But nothing could make them stop crying, even though Mr. Whitloe the drayman took them home in his dray, which was much more comfortable than rolling home.