Mary Poppins
And the Match-Man


It was her Day Out—Mary Poppins’s.

So she put on her white gloves and tucked her umbrella under her arm—not because it was raining, but because it had such a beautiful handle that she couldn’t possible leave it at home.

Jane waved to her from the window.

“Where are you going?” cried Jane.

But Mary Poppins just smiled and shook her head and wouldn’t say.

She set off walking very quickly as if she were afraid the afternoon would run away from her.

She turned to the right and then to the left, and then two more times to the left and there she was—right in the middle of her Day Out.

She stood on the corner being very happy and feeling how lucky she was to be Mary Poppins and how thankful she was that nobody else could be Mary Poppins, the underneath nurse of Jane and Michael and John and Barbara Banks.  She had to be an underneath nurse because—being only 17—she wasn’t old enough to be anything else.  And although there was no top nurse, Mr Banks and Mrs Banks liked to pretend to one another that there was by calling Mary Poppins an underneath one.

Well, she stood there on the corner smiling to herself. Then she smoothed down her best frock and tucked her umbrella more firmly under her arm so that the handle, which was the head of a parrot, could nestle up against her shoulder and be seen by everybody.

Then she went forward to meet the Match-Man.

He not only sold matches, but he drew pictures, this Match-Man, because he was a very special kind.

He was adding a lovely picture of two bananas and a very red apple to a long string of others on the pavement when Mary Poppins walked up to him.

She tiptoed so as to surprise him.

“Hey!” said Mary Poppins softly.

He went on putting the brown stripes on a yellow banana.

“Ahem!” said Mary Poppins with a ladylike cough.

He turned and saw her.

“Mary!” he cried, and you could see by the way he cried it that he loved her.

Mary Poppins smoothed out her dress and looked hard at her shoes and smiled at the Match-Man all at once, and you knew by that that she loved him, too.

“It’s my Day, Bert,” she said, “didn’t you remember?” Bert was the Match-Man’s name—Herbert for Sundays.

“Course I remember, Mary,” he said, and then he looked sadly into his cap, which lay on the pavement with only tuppence in it.  He picked it up and jingled the pennies.

“That all you got?” said Mary Poppins.

“That’s all,” he said. “Business’s bad to-day.  Can’t take you to tea, I’m afraid.”

Mary Poppins thought of the raspberry-jam-cakes, which she usually had on her Day Out, and she was just going to sigh when she saw how sorry he was looking.  So she very cleverly turned the sigh into a smile—a good one with both ends turned up—and said: “That’s all right, Bert.  I’d much rather not go to tea—really!”  Which, when you think of the raspberry-jam-cakes, was rather noble of her.

Then the Match-Man took her white-gloved hand and led her to the first of the pictures.

“There,” he said, “new ones you haven’t seen before.”

“O!” said Mary Poppins, and she said it in such a lovely way that he felt that by rights the pictures should have been in the Royal Academy, which is a large room where people hang pictures they have made for everybody to see.  And when they see them everybody says to everybody else: “The idea—my dear!”

The Match-Man’s first picture was of a mountain covered with white snow and at one side of it were two green trees and on the other side was a grass-hopper sitting on a rose.  It was beautiful.

And the next one was more beautiful.  It was all trees and grass and a little bit of blue sea in the distance and every kind of flower you could think of.

“Ah!” said Mary Poppins, stooping closer to look at it.

“Mary,” said the Match-Man, “let’s go in—go into the picture.  Eh?”  And still holding the hand of the enchanted girl, he drew her out of the street right into the middle of the picture.  Puff!  There they were, right inside it.

It was all green there, and quiet, and the grass was soft under their feet.

Mary Poppins noticed that the Match-Man had changed.  He looked cleaner and he was wearing a straw hat and a bright striped coat and white flannel trousers.

“My, Bert, you look fine!” she cried and began to admire him.

“You, too!  Mary!” he said.  And looking down she discovered she was wearing a silken cloak, and that there was a long curly feather coming down from her hat and tickling her neck, and on her feet were little shoes with diamond buckles on them.  She was still wearing the white gloves and carrying the umbrella.

They began to walk through the trees and soon they came upon a little open space, and there on a green table was Afternoon-Tea!  There was a pile of raspberry-jam-cakes as high as Mary Poppins’s waist.  And there was tea boiling in a big silver urn.  But more than that, there were two plates of mussels and two pins to pick them out with.

“Oh!” said Mary Poppins, who always forgot all about words when she was pleased.

“Sit down, Moddom!” said a tall man in a black coat coming out of the wood with a table napkin over his arm.

Mary Poppins sat down on a little green chair.  And the Match-Man sat on another.

“I, am the Waiter, you know!” said the man in the black coat.

“Won’t you sit down?” said Mary Poppins politely.“

Waiters never sit down, Moddom!” said the man, but he smiled at her for asking him.

“Your mussels, Mister!” he said pushing a plate of them over to the Match-Man.  “And your Pin!”  He dusted the pin on his table-napkin and handed it to the Match-Man.

“Thanks,” said Bert and begin to eat.

The Waiter watched them carefully.

“We’re having tea after all,” said Mary Poppins in a loud whisper as she began on the heap of raspberry-jam-cakes.

“My word!” said Bert.

“Tea?” said the Waiter, filling a cup by turning a little silver tap on the urn.

They drank their tea—two cups each—and finished the whole pile of raspberry-jam-cakes.

Then they got up and brushed the crumbs off.

“There is nothing to Pay!” said the Waiter, before they had time to ask.  “It is a Pleasure!  You will find the Merry-go-round just over there!”  And he waved his hand to a little gap in the trees, where Mary Poppins and the Match-Man could see several wooden horses whirling round and round on a stand.

“That’s funny,” said the Match-Man, who hadn’t remembered seeing them either, “they were hidden behind the trees.”

“P’raps!” said Mary Poppins, and led the way to the Merry-go-round.  There, when the horses stood still, they mounted—she on a black one and he on a white.  And they rode and rode, all the way to Margate and back because that was the place they both wanted most to see.

When they returned it was nearly dark and the Waiter was waiting for them.

“I’m sorry, Moddom and Mister,” he said politely, “but we close at Five.  Rules, you know.  May I show you the way out?”

They nodded and he flourished his table-napkin and walked on in front of them through the wood.  They passed a little red house with sun flowers in its front garden.

“Just the sort of little house I alway wanted!” said Mary Poppins kissing her white-gloved hand to it.

“Look,” said the Match-Man, pointing to a little donkey which was eating daisies and drawing a very small cart, “that’s the very donkey I hoped to have—cart and all—to go traveling in.”

“It’s a wonderful picture you’ve drawn this time,” said Mary Poppins softly, taking his hand.  

Just then the Waiter stopped in front of them, inside a large white frame which looked as if it were made with chalk.

“Here you are!” he said.  “This is the Way Out.”

“Good-bye!” said Mary Poppins, smiling at him very gently.

“Moddom, good-bye!” said the Waiter and bowed so low that his head knocked against his knees.

He and the Match-Man nodded to one another, and then Mary Poppins stepped through the white frame with the Match-Man at her heels.

And as they went the feather dropped from her hat and the silken cloak from her shoulders, and the diamonds from her shoes, and the bright clothes of the Match-Man turned to dull brown again.

On the pavement they looked back for the Waiter, but he was nowhere to be seen.  There was nobody in the picture.  Even the merry-go-round had disappeared.  Only the trees and the grass and the little patch of sea remained.

But Mary Poppins and the Match-Man smiled at one another.  Because they know what lay behind the trees.

When she got home after her Day Out, Jane and Michael ran to her, and John and Barbara shouted to her in their own small language.

“Where’ve you been?” cried Jane and Michael.

“In Faeryland,” said Mary Poppins softly.

“O-o-h, did you see Cinderella?” said Jane.

“No,” said Mary Poppins.

“Did you see the Robinson Crusoe-Man?” said Michael.

“No,” said Mary Poppins.

“Then how could you have been there?”

“It couldn’t have been our Faeryland.”

“I expect,” said Mary Poppins, “that everybody’s got a Faeryland of their own!”

And she went upstairs to take off her gloves and put the umbrella away.

Scan of the original “Mary Poppins And the Match-Man” short story from the 13 November 1926 issue of Christchurch’s The Sun newspaper, courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries, Aotearoa Section. Our sincere thanks to Wendy Riley for providing the scan. (Click here for source.)