Big Ben looks down on us in London
Lost in London
By James E. McEldowney
Christmas Comes To India Stories - Table of Contents Up the Rhine

Have you ever been lost? Philip was once. He gave all of us a scare. We were on our way home from India and had just arrived in London a day or so before - We didn't know how in the world we would f ind him in such a large city.

I said we were on our way back to America from India. During the two weeks on the ship from Bombay the children had lots of fun playing with other children. Barbara seemed most anxious to get to London and kept asking us, "When are we ever going to get to London?" Then she would add, "I want to get a whole bag of candy." You see, during the years after the war food was scarce and especially candy. Philip had told Barbara he would be the first one in the candy shop and the girls had said, "No, you won't."

Then we got to London and sure enough one of the first places w e went was to a candy store. It was a marvelous sight. "My there are so many kinds of candy," Betty Ann said. Ruth and I watched as each of them picked out his or her favorite candy. Each one hoped to be the first to buy. And then a terrible thing happened.

You see, right after the war sugar was scarce. In London, it was rationed. People had to have coupons to buy every kind of food, and especially candy. Philip had just pointed out the candy he wanted when the clerk behind the counter said, "That will take eight points on your coupon. Give me your coupon and I will mark it off." Philip's hand fell to his side and all the fun seemed to go out of him. "Coupons?" he said, "We have just come from India and we didn't know." By that time Betty and Barbara had come running because they had heard what the clerk had said. You should have seen their faces. "You mean we have to have coupons, too?" [++Page 66] Betty Ann asked? They were all about to cry. Suddenly all the fun had gone out of being in London.

The clerk was quick to see how terrible they looked. She turned and talked with the other clerks. Then she told the children, "Well now, there is one kind of candy that does not need coupons. We can give you some of that." she pointed to the very kind the girls had picked out. "Oh will you?" they all said at once. You should have seen how their faces lit up with smiles. "we will thank you ever so much to have some of that," Philip piped up. So with a sack of candy we left the store and went on our way to the Guest House where we were to stay.

We had hardly settled in our room when the lady said, "You have a telephone call." I went to the phone and said, "Hello." It was an English couple who had lived in India near us. They had come to their home in London only a few weeks earlier. "Come have lunch with us tomorrow. Meet us at the open air restaurant on the bank of the Thames river at 11:00."

It was fun to go by underground railroad down to meet them. What a lot of fun it was to tell them all about our trip and especially about the candy. We had a good lunch and then they said, "We want to do something special for you. Here are tickets for the boat trip up to Kew Gardens." We knew the Kew Gardens were world famous and we had planned to see them. Ruth spoke up and said, "Thank you. We will surely enjoy the Gardens." Actually we hardly wanted to get on a boat so soon. We had just been on a boat for two weeks. But we took the tickets and soon went down to the river to get on the boat.

What we did not expect was that on the river the wind was chilly." We almost froze because we had not dressed for a cold ride. It was a long way that took more than an hour. "Snuggle down in your chairs and you will not feel so cold," I suggested. But we were almost frozen before we got to the Gardens.

The Kew Gardens were ever bit as beautiful as people had said. English people had brought trees and flowers and bushes from all over the world to plant there. The colors were wonderful. At each different kind of plant there was a marker giving its name and where it was from. There were tulips, azaleas, marigolds, and banks of rhododendrons of almost every color. That is only a few of the flowers. What we liked most were the greenhouses. They were glass houses for those plants that grow only in countries where the weather is warm. In the greenhouses they had to keep the temperature warm all the time. we liked those houses especially, because we had hardly thawed out after the boat trip. Our friends were right, there was so much to see we spent most of the afternoon looking at all those amazing plants.

Just before we were to leave we went into the orchid house, [++Page 67] because it was the most famous of all. I stopped to take pictures of some of the beautiful flowers and the children wandered off by themselves. "We'll look around and you can find us before we go back to the Guest House," Betty Ann called.

When it was time to leave we began looking for the children. We had not gone far when we met Betty Ann and Barbara laughing and talking as they looked at the beautiful flowers. We said, " And where is Philip?" "Oh, isn't he with you?" the girls asked. "He left us quite a while ago. We thought he was going to find you." Now we were in a fix. Where could he be? "Barbara and Betty you go with Ruth that way and I will go this way. We will search through the Orchid house until we find him," and with that they started off. We met at the other end of the building. Both said about the same time, "We can't find him. What shall we do?" After a long pause I suggested, "Possibly he has gone outside to wait for us there," So we hurried to the exit and went outside, but he was nowhere to be seen.

That made us all the more scared. I could not imagine what a little boy would do lost in such a big city. Fortunately we saw some men planting flowers in one of the little garden plots along the walkway. We hurried over to them. "Have you seen a little boy walking alone?" I asked. "Oh, that little fellow wearing long pants?" One of the men asked. (Boys Philip's age in England wear knee pants, not long pants.) "He went down that way," and he pointed to the exit of the Garden. We thanked him, and hurried on. What could have happened to Philip? What would he do if he wandered out of the Garden alone?

Down the walk we went as fast as we could. In no time we were at the gate. There sat Philip on a stone bench. We were panting when we reached him. "You had us scared," I said. "We didn't know when you left the orchid house." "I saw all I wanted to," he said, "So I decided to come ahead." Right then I told him we should stay together for we thought he was surely lost. "If you were lost, how could we possibly find you in such a big place?" I asked. "Lost?" he said, "I was never lost." I threw my arms around him and we started off down the street. We took a bus back to the Guest House and the bus was ever so much warmer than the boat. [By James E. McEldowney, August 1997]

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