Matilda . . . 

A children's story
by my friend Toni Donelow Stewart 1961-2004


 

 

 

 

 

 

Art of "Matilda" by Toni Donelow Stewart


Matilda! Matilda!

by
Toni Donelow Stewart

1961-2004

The story of” Matilda! Matilda!”is about a little rabbit who is in charge of helping the Easter Bunny coloring the Easter eggs. But this year, something happens to mess up the paint and all the eggs get broken, so Matilda has to figure out how to get new eggs and get them colored before the Easter Bunny needs them for Easter morning.

 


 

 

  

1.                  Matilda stood on the front step of her little treehouse and stretched out her arms into the shining sun.  She had been dancing and happy since waking up.  It was the week before Easter Sunday, and she would now start gathering everyone together to go to the hens who laid the wonderful eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide for the children of the nearby town of Rabbitville, the following Sunday.

2.                  It was a wonderful morning! Everything went smoothly as usual, and all of the rabbits of Rabbitville carried the baskets full of beautiful white and even brown colored eggs to the place where they would paint them, and decorate them to make them even more beautiful.  It would take all week.  The rabbits of Rabbitville were fine crafters, and artists, too!

3.                  Monday passed, and Tuesday passed without a problem – in fact, everything was going so smoothly, that Matilda decided that maybe they should go to the hens for more eggs, since there would be more time.

4.                  However, when she got there, all the hens were asleep, most likely tired from all the egg laying for the holiday.  So Matilda figured it wouldn’t hurt to slip some of the ones they were sitting on, out from beneath them.  They wouldn’t mind after all, would they?

5.                  She didn’t wake a single hen while taking the eggs, and that seemed to be okay, it wasn’t stealing or anything, the hens would happily give those eggs, wouldn’t they?  Especially for the Easter Bunny.  Yes, no problem! Matilda thought to herself, as she quietly closed the door on the great henhouse, and slipped back down the path in the darkness.

6.                  When she returned to the egg studio, everyone had gone, so Matilda sat the basket on the middle table and shut off the lights and went home, herself, thinking that all the rabbits would be happy for more eggs to color!  Matilda felt very good about that and fell asleep very peacefully that night.

7.                  When morning came, Matilda went out on the front step again, as she did every spring morning and stretched her arms out to the shining sun.  It is a beautiful day! She thought to herself, as she headed down the front steps and down the short path the egg studio.

8.                   But when Matilda got there, she was very surprised to find that everyone was upset, not happy.  “What is wrong?” She asked, not sure why everyone was upset yet, since they were all crowded around the middle table.

9.                  “The hens!” someone said.  “One of them has come and taken the eggs that were in this basket, and trompled on all of the others, we have no eggs left for Easter!”  

“NO eggs? How could that happen? I got us MORE eggs last night, the hens were just sleeping, they didn’t mind, “ she exclaimed, nervously, thinking maybe they did mind.

Matilda!” someone said, in a very somber, disappointed tone of voice.

10.              “One of them must have come back to retrieve them – maybe they were not magic eggs, they might have been eggs with chicks, Matilda, you should have woke them up to ask for the eggs.  They must have been chicks!” 

11.              Matilda gasped and put her face into her hands, and wept. “How could I have been so stupid? 

“I was just trying to make everyone happy that there would be more eggs to color, I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone.” She said.

12.              “Yes Matilda, I’m sure everyone here understands that, but we have a problem to solve – NOW what is the Easter Bunny going to hide for the children on Easter morning?  We have nothing to give him now but broken eggs, and the hens are surely very angry at us.”

“I don’t know, I will have to think about it,” she said.  “It is my job to think about it, and I will not let the Easter Bunny down.”

13.              Matilda slowly left the art studio while the other rabbits began to clean up the mess. There were some in the room just weeping, and others scratching their heads, all feeling that Matilda would not be able to resolve the problem before Easter Sunday – they would also need time to color any new eggs, IF Matilda could get more. It all seemed very hopeless to them.

14.              She walked down the path back to the forest and stood beyond the trees that shaded the great henhouse.  Soon she found herself sitting on a log, just looking through the trees at the henhouse, thinking about what she should do.

15.              Before she knew it, the sun was beginning to set and soon all of the hens would be asleep again, so she stood up and began walking toward the henhouse, not knowing what she would do once she got inside, but knowing she must do something.

16.              “Hello,” Matilda said while opening the front door to the house.  “Hello Matilda,” said one of the hens closest to her.  “It is almost sunset, what are you doing here?” the hen asked. 

“I am here to say I am sorry, and I need your help.” Matilda heard herself say.

“Sorry for what, dear Matilda?” the hen asked softly. The other hens were half awake but some nodded and turned their heads closer to listen.

Unfinished sketch for the Matilda story by Toni Donelow Stewart

 

 

17.              “I took the eggs last night, thinking nobody would mind.” Matilda confessed.

The hen’s eyes opened more widely and she extended her neck just a little more, with interest.

“Oh my!” she covered her beak with a wing.  There were tears coming out of the beautiful hen’s eyes.

Matilda, Matilda! Those were chicks in those eggs, everyone was very frightened, and many of us scrambled around the whole countryside to make sure that they were not stolen by one of the foxes.”

“But you found them and it is alright now?” Matilda asked, thinking of her predicament with the Easter Bunny.

18.              “Yes, I suppose it is alright, every single chick is safe and accounted for. They are all back in their proper nests with their proper mothers.” Answered the hen.

But the other hens had sour looks on their faces, and she could feel their rightful anger.

19.              “I am so sorry, I really didn’t know, and I didn’t think anyone would mind giving more eggs to the Easter Bunny for the children.” She said.

“Yes Matilda, but we will have to discuss it among ourselves.  Go now and we will have an answer for you in the morning.” All the hens nodded in agreement, they all cared very much for Matilda and the Easter Bunny, and felt sorry for her as well, but were also considering what she had done, and how dangerous that was for the chicks.

20.              Matilda walked slowly home, and said nothing to anyone.  She just closed her front door and went to bed, not hungry, not feeling like she could sleep but was soon sleeping anyway.

21.              When morning came, she got dressed and stood out on her front step and stretched her arms out to the bright and shining sun.  But this morning she just felt sad, not knowing if the hens were going to help and make more eggs to replace the ones that had been trampled. And there was so little time now to get new ones colored, even after they were laid and carried to the egg studio.  “Ho hum.” Matilda muttered to herself as she slipped slowly down the path, in the opposite direction from the egg studio, she went straight to the great henhouse, and stood quietly outside the door, her shadow dark on the wooden boards.

22.              Matilda decided not to knock right away, because she could hear the faint voices of the hens inside, though she could not understand them.

23.              She stood and waited for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. She began to feel herself perspiring. What would happen if they said that they would not help her? She was so afraid!

24.              “Matilda! Matilda!” the hen from the day before called out from behind the door.  The hens were busy in their nests and not getting up most of the time, during the spring, so she let herself in, as she had done before.

25.              “Yes Ma’am?” Matilda answered in a soft voice, feeling very frightened.

“We have come to a conclusion, “ she said, as the other hens nodded in agreement.

“Yes?” Matilda asked almost immediately, feeling her hopes up.

“We have decided in this collective, that we should go ahead and help you this time.”

“Oh my, thank you Ladies!” Matilda exclaimed.

“But ONLY because no such thing has ever happened in the past, and that you have explained to us your reasons for making such a mistake.  We would also not like to make the children unhappy on Easter morning,” she continued.

“Yes,” Matilda agreed.  “and I am so sorry for my mistake, and I will never do such a thing again, I am sorry I stole the eggs.”

“Yes, the stealing also comes into it, but I should hope that your own conscience should suffice in punishment, and that you shall not do it again.”

“I will never again take something that is not mine.” Matilda swore to them, holding her paw against her heart, and felt herself weep again for what she had done.

26.              “Then it is agreed then, we shall lay more eggs for Easter. Please come back to us this evening, Matilda, and bring the other bunnies to carry the baskets of eggs back to your coloring studio, we will have plenty for you.” The sweet hen said in a happier voice.

“Thank you so much!” said Matilda.

“Now go, and return this evening, have a good day Little Miss,” she smiled sweetly.

27.              Matilda returned down the path that led back to the egg studio, where everyone was gathered waiting for her to show up.

 

28.              “We’re SAVED!” She announced excitedly.  “The hens have understanding hearts and have forgiven me my mistake, and they said to show up at the end of the day with all of you, to bring the eggs that they will be laying today.”

All the bunnies were relieved and thankful for the kindness of the hearts of the hens in the great henhouse.  They had every right to be mad at Matilda and even the Easter Bunny, had they wanted to.

“And you have learned your lesson, Matilda?” the oldest rabbit of the town interrupted, Mrs. Grain, who was also the retired schoolteacher.

“Yes Mrs. Grain, I have learned my lesson and I will never steal again.” Matilda answered in a very humbled voice.

“That is good, it will never happen again.” She smiled, in her usual knowing way.

 

29.              That evening, just as promised, the rabbits of Rabbitville showed up at the great henhouse with fresh empty baskets and waited for Matilda to return from inside with the hens and open the door so they could gather up the new eggs. This time around, there were more eggs than the last time, and plenty of work to do!

30.              The rabbits lived in the egg studio for 2 more days solid, until every last egg was done and ready to go for the Easter Bunny.  During this time, they ate there and slept there and had all the little bunny children playing there, and were much like one big rabbit family. And of all the rabbits, it seemed that Matilda was there working the  very  hardest to get the beautiful eggs done in time, for the Easter Bunny. She had ‘learned her lesson’ very dearly it seemed, but had learned it well.

 

31.              By the time Easter Sunday morning arrived, all the rabbits were asleep, including Matilda, when the Easter Bunny showed up to take the beautiful eggs.

32.              He tiptoed between them and above them and below them and beneath them, and retrieved every last beautiful egg from among the sleeping rabbits, while the light of the sun barely crept through the cracks in the shuttered windows of the egg studio.

33.              “Bless you all,” he turned back and spoke to them softly as he left out the door with the wonderful eggs.  And just as he slipped away, the rabbits began to awaken, and realize that they had overslept, and that they missed the Easter Bunny.

Someone wondered aloud: “Does he know?”

Matilda answered. “He knows.”

     ----THE END ----    

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