MR CURRY FINDS LOVE.
Paddington's attic room was now beautifully appointed. Home from home. The Christmas tree stood in the corner. Permanently decorated. There were fairy lights, but since Mr Brown stated, quite categorically, that over 30% of household fires began with faulty Christmas tree lights, he wasn't permitted to switch them on.
His favourite place of all was in the little seat in the circular window, where he could gaze down into the street below, or write a letter.
There was a comfy bed, but, being a bear, Paddington still preferred the cross beam just above it.
From that vantage point he could see the stars through the skylight at night, he would close his eyes and muse that those very same stars looked down upon Aunt Lucy, thousands of miles away in the home for retired bears, in Darkest Peru.
He could also see the damn pigeons, who appeared miraculously every time he took off his hat.
"Coo, yourself!" He replied, tucking his emergency marmalade sandwich safely into the crown.
Downstairs in the kitchen it was all systems go.
Today was Sunday.
It was a very special day.
Tea Party Day.
It was all Mrs Brown's idea. She who was always so kind to everyone, who had first taken a lost and lonely bear into her home. Despite the rest of the family's misgivings, and in spite of Mr Brown's unsuccessful attempt to calculate the additional home insurance required when one has a bear in full time residence.
The tea party was in honour of Mr Curry. Their next door neighbour.
To say thank you.
For, as she pointed out with her usual flair for hitting the nail firmly on the head, were it not for Mr Curry, Paddington would currently be an exhibit.
On a log.
In a glass case.
In the Natural History Museum.
Paddington shivered at the thought.
The previous week........
It was the morning of The Interview.
Mr Curry was up extra early.
He had brushed the biscuit crumbs from the sofa, no one would notice, they were approximately the same colour as the carpet.......he drew back the brown and orange curtains, and tidied the kitchen.
Dressed in his best velvet jacket, with a rose in his button hole, he eagerly awaited the ring on his doorbell.
From The Gazette.
He'd made paste sandwiches, bought pink wafer biscuits.
She, however, didn't seem impressed when he told her that the paste was only two days passed its sell by date.
"It'll be fine, they always give you a bit of leeway......."
Nor was she enamoured by his humble home, which he'd inherited from his departed mother. Lived there all his life.
She frowned with distaste at the beige dralon settee, with its embroidered antimacassar. The G Plan side board and the fringed lampshade on the standard lamp.
The interview itself went surprising well, but Mr Curry, despite all his valiant efforts to impress, had fallen sadly short, and was to be left disappointed, as Miss Flowerdew seemed completely immune to his good looks, wit and charm.
After she'd gone, he sank down. Running a hand through his steel grey hair, which he'd so carefully coiffed for the occasion. Smoothed and sleeked. All to no avail.
He felt irrepressibly sad.
The ring of his doorbell a second time, made him jump out of his skin. Had she had second thoughts? Come back to tell him he was irresistible and she could fight her feelings no longer?
It was Mrs Brown.
Dressed in a bright red wool skirt and tights, a sapphire blue cardigan and blue shoes.
She flashed him a warm smile.
"Good morning Mr Curry! You look very smart!" She beamed.
Looking down at himself, flustered, embarrassed, disappointed, he pointedly didn't invite her in.
"What can I do for you Mrs Brown?" He enquired in his most businesslike voice.
"I've come to ask you to tea! Paddington would be SO pleased if you came. You're our hero, and we'd all like to say a big thank you."
Her expression was kindly, genuine and hopeful.
"Heavens!" He replied, quite taken aback. "No one has ever asked me to tea before!"
"Then you'll come! Oh, the children will be thrilled!"
And before he could say anything further she was walking down the path.
"Sunday! Three o clock!" She called over her shoulder, as she hurried away, her curls bouncing most prettily.
Mrs Bird seated Paddington on a stool at the kitchen counter. She had given him a knife, some mustard and some half finished ham sandwiches.
"Here ye go, wee bear.....put a little dash of Colman's into each sandwich and then I'll put the top slice on and cut them into triangles."
Mrs Bird was a force of nature.
Fearless in the face of adversity.
Dealing with errant zoologists and officious security men with the same indomitable spirit to which she applied herself to the making of fairy cakes. Which was the task she was tackling now.
Little puffs of the lightest sponge in pretty paper cases.
A basin of pink butter icing standing ready once they'd cooled.
Paddington eyed the pot of bright yellow condiment curiously. It looked delicious, he just had to try some.
Into his mouth went a heaped teaspoonful.
"PPPAAAAAAHHHHHH! " He gave a strangled cough. Eyes watering, lips on fire.
A large gobbet of the burning evilness flew from his mouth straight into the bowl of icing.
Running to the sink, he swallowed water desperately, certain he was breathing flames.
Mrs Bird gave him not so much as a second glance, as she continued carefully spooning prawn mixture into her vol au vents.
"My, but you're a thirsty bear!" She remarked casually.
Returning to his stool, Paddington could see the mustard sinking slowly into the cake topping. He stirred it in hurriedly with a spoon and went back to his sandwich making.
No one would be any the wiser, he reasoned.
Jonathan and Judy laid the table. There were serviettes, and coloured streamers. Balloons and bunting.
All in Mr. Curry's honour.
It was to be quite a grand affair.
At three o clock sharp, the doorbell rang.
Today Mr Curry had opted for a more sartorial elegance.
Green shirt. Fair isle waistcoat, silken cravat. Tan corduroys. Topped off with his beige mac, as there was a little nip in the air.
He carried a box of truffles in his hand. Tied with a bow.
"For you!" He presented them to Mrs Brown cordially. "Someone bought them for me for Christmas, but I didn't eat them. The chocolate has only bloomed slightly, and it's perfectly harmless."
"Why! Mr Curry! How kind!" Their neighbour found himself enveloped in a warm hug.
"Paddington! Our guest is here!" She called.
Paddington appeared at the top of the stairs, then came sliding gracefully down the bannister rail, dropping lightly on the floor almost at Mr Curry's feet.
Man extended a hand to Bear.
Instead of taking it in his paw, Paddington threw his furry arms around the tops of Mr Curry's legs. Which was the height to which he reached on the rather tall man.
His cold black nose pressed against the trousers, clinging tightly.
"Thank you Mr Curry. You saved my life." He whispered.
He was then hugged with equal firmness first by Jonathan and then by Judy.
Quite overwhelmed. Utterly speechless, as he was led into the dining room by Mrs Brown, his hand clasped in her own steadfastly. Her eyes filled with tears.
What a happy tea party it was!
Everyone seated around the table. Laughing, chattering, smiling, all warm and welcoming.
Paddington sat on his left. He had mayonnaise in his fur. Where he'd reached across for yet another marmalade sandwich, and brushed the top of Mrs Bird's champion vol au vents.
"Do have a fairy cake Mr Curry. They are Mrs Bird's speciality!" Mr Brown offered him the plate.
He took one and bit into it with relish.
His tongue immediately screamed for mercy. He spluttered slightly and hid his mouth with his napkin.
"Mmmm! Delicious!" He enthused. "What an interesting flavour!"
If it were possible for a bear to blush, then Paddington would have flushed crimson, he changed the subject hurriedly.
"Mr Curry. What you did was very brave, and because of you, I have a home and a loving family." He said tremulously, with a touch of his paw on the sleeve.
"Yes. We are all very grateful to you, Sir! For helping us to see just what Paddington means to us all.
Also for exposing that nasty Millicent Clyde for what she really is. I'm glad she was punished and I hope she's learned her lesson."
Mr Curry's face clouded. A look of sadness creased his features.
"My Honeypot." He murmured. "I was foolish. Smitten. I thought she was the one for me. I thought I would be her dearest Fierce Eagle."
All eyes around the table were upon him.
Mrs Brown left her seat and put her arms around his neck.
"Dear Mr Curry!" She said quietly. "We are so sorry. We know you loved her."
Their guest didn't pull away, instead he accepted the embrace. Closed his eyes, leaned in, his shoulders sagging under the weight of his misery.
Furry arms joined human ones.
"We all love you Mr Curry! You can be part of the family too. We'd love to have you."
Mr Brown gave a quick hurumph of exasperation.
"Well, not in the living in sense of course!" He added quickly.
Paddington gave him a very hard stare.
"For years it was just mother and I." Mr Curry said sorrowfully. "A very distant woman, my mother. Very distant indeed. Since then, it's just been me. In that house, by myself. Until I saw Honeypot.....I mean Miss Clyde.....by the telephone box......and something just........"
"Clicked?" Offered Mrs Brown.
"Snapped?" Tried Judy.
"Came over me." He concluded. "I realised how lonely I was, how I didn't have a soul in the world.
How was I to know what was in her mind? Barbaric! Quite barbaric! It was most upsetting!"
He turned to Paddington and ruffled the fuzzy head affectionately.
"Well. You are always welcome in this house." Mrs Brown smiled with finality. "And we think you are wonderful, don't we children? Precious? Pumpkin?" She turned to both her children in turn, for confirmation.
Judy frowned crossly at her mother, at the sound of the name 'pumpkin' but decided to let it go......just this once.
"Of course he is!" She agreed. "We love you Mr Curry, you are a dear dear man. We have Paddington in our family because of you."
"Yes! He is family." Added Jonathan. "And now, so are you!"
There at the party table sat a bewildered Mr Curry. The hero.
Surrounded by the Brown's, Mrs Bird, and Paddington himself.
All gathered close to him, accepting, friendly, convivial. Such sentiments Mr Curry had never really known. Not for many a long year.
His eyes misted.
"Why........that's absolutely wonderful, thank you all. Thank you!" He breathed, looking from one to the other around the tea table in disbelief.
Mr Curry had been searching for love.
He'd found it.
In a most unexpected place.
Here at number 42, Windsor Gardens.
They were all hugging and kissing him......well, not Mr Brown, he was shaking him by the hand, and not Paddington either, he gave his new friend an affectionate lick, and a touch of his cold wet nose against one cheek.
"Well, that's settled then! Mr Curry is now an honorary member of the family!" Mrs Brown beamed.
Mrs Bird picked up the plate of iced fairy cakes.
"Do help yourself to another of my special cakes, Mr Curry! They are my own unique recipe......!"