Once upon a time there were two lovely people, Beti, and her husband Alf, who lived in a shoe. They loved children and so of course they had lots. Twenty six, to be exact!
Ay, Bee, Cie and Dey were quads, all girls. Ee, Eff and Gi were triplets, all boys. Aich and Iy were twins. Aich was a boy and Iy was a girl. Jae, Kae and Ell were triplets again, the first two girls and the third a boy. Emm, Enn and Oh were triplets, all three girls and Pee was a single boy.
Qoo and Arr were twin boys, Ess, Tee and Uo were triplets, all girls. Vee, W, Exx and Y were quads, the first two boys and the other two girls. Zed was the last, a girl.
The older children helped with the cleaning and the washing and making all the beds.
The younger children made sure there was always cleaning to be done, clothes to be washed and beds needing to be made.
Beti and Alf thought all their children were just wonderful. When they were all old enough there was a school and two teachers just for the Shoe children.
They had enough people for two teams including a twelfth man for each team and two umpires when they played cricket. (This was long before there was any need for a third umpire.) Beti and Alf watched and applauded every player.
One day when Zed, the youngest, was seven years old, Beti was doing some cooking. Actually every day was a cooking day for Beti, but this was a special day. This was the day when Beti made the Gingerbread People. It was a day they all never forgot!
First she got all her pans and dishes ready and washed her hands. She made sure the cat and her kittens weren't sleeping in the oven, and that all the children were outside. Some of them were playing and the others were helping Alf in the garden. She got the flour and the eggs and the sugar and the ginger all ready, and very soon there was a big bowl full of ginger bread mixture ready to be cut up into ginger bread people.
She made twenty eight ginger bread people. There was one for each of the children, one for Beti and one for Alf.
Beti gave them all eyes with chocolate bits, and buttons down their fronts with chocolate bits. She used a teaspoon to give each one a little mouth.
Then she made sure again that the cat hadn't sneaked into the oven and popped the ginger bread people all in to cook.
When they were done she took them out. They looked perfect! (Beti's cooking was always perfect.)
She put the gingerbread people onto plates on the kitchen table. She poured milk into twenty six little mugs and made a pot of coffee for herself and Alf. Off she went outside to call in Alf and all the children from their play and from the garden.
Beti hadn't noticed, but when she was making the ginger bread people a fairy flew past the shoe. She saw all the children playing and working in the garden outside.
Now this was a wicked fairy, and she decided to play a trick on the Shoe family. She waved her magic wand and made all the gingerbread people come to life. Not only that, but she made them naughty. (All of the Shoe children were good, except for now and again when they got up to a little mischief. Beti and Alf didn't know what naughty was! Yet.)
When Beti and Alf and all the children came back inside the shoe there were little gingerbread people everywhere!
Four were dancing on the table, knocking everything over. Two were climbing up the curtains and one was swimming in the sink.
Two of them were chasing the cat and three were tormenting the kittens.
Five were mixing up the salt and the pepper and the butter and the jam and throwing it around. They were jumping in the mess and making footprints all over the nice clean tablecloth.
Two of them had found a mouse hole and were trying to drag the baby mice outside for the kittens to chase.
Two were playing sword fights with forks. One had got into Beti's knitting and was rolling three balls of wool around on the kitchen floor, getting them into a wonderful tangle.
Three were playing leapfrog over all the plates and the mugs of milk and they were spilling milk everywhere.
Two ginger bread people had gone upstairs hoping to find something even worse to do.
And one little ginger bread person was doing something very naughty in the sugar bowl.
The wicked fairy had made herself invisible and was sitting on the back of Beti's armchair laughing fit to burst at what was going on.
Beti and Alf and the children were horrified when they saw the mess and heard all the noise the naughty little ginger bread people were making.
The wicked fairy was laughing so hard she fell off the chair and landed on the floor. When she landed her invisible spell wore off.
The cat started to chase after her.
The wicked fairy tripped over her feet. She had very big feet for a fairy. When she got up she was tangled in the knitting wool. The kittens started to chase her too. The baby mice ran under her feet and she tripped over again.
The milk dripped over the edge of the table and made a puddle. The wicked fairy did not look where she was going and so she slipped over in that too. Then the ginger bread people on top of the table threw salt and jam and butter down at her. When they started throwing the pepper down she started to sneeze and she just could not stop.
And then, just to make things even worse, the very naughty ginger bread person who had done something nasty in the sugar bowl came and tipped it all over the wicked fairy.
She was very cross. She sat in a puddle of milk and sugar and salt and pepper and jam on the floor. Not to forget the something nasty in the sugar bowl.
The Shoe family, Beti and Alf and all their twenty six children, just stood and stared at the wicked fairy as she sneezed and sneezed and sneezed until she cried.
"Oh dear!" said Beti. Then, because she was so kind and soft hearted, she went over to help the wicked fairy to her feet. The ginger bread people were still running riot but the wicked fairy waved her magic wand and they all stopped right where they were. When she looked around the fairy could see what a mess they had made. It had all been very funny until she had fallen off the chair and they had started picking on her. That was Not Nice At All.
She waved her magic wand and everything was cleaned up, quick smart, almost as tidy and clean as Beti and the children could make it. She waved her wand again and the ginger bread people all flew back to the plates where they lay nice and still, ready to be eaten up by Alf and Beti and the Shoe children.
Then the wicked fairy untangled herself from the knitting wool and flew away out of the window and as far away from the Shoe family as she could get.
Beti and Alf and all the children had a wonderful feast of ginger bread men. The children drank up their milk and Beti and Alf drank coffee.
And of course, they all lived happily ever after. Even the wicked fairy lived happily ever after. But that was because she never ever made ginger bread people come to life again.