JONTY AND THE STAMMERING CAP

Once upon a time there was a little boy called Jonty. His name was Jonathan really but, when he was learning to talk, he couldn't manage to say 'Jonathan' and the nearest he could get to it was 'Jonty'. And Jonty he became, and everyone called him that, even his teachers at school.

Now Jonty was a good boy and a kind boy and an obedient boy who loved his Mummy and Daddy very much, and of course they loved him. So you would think he'd be a very happy little boy, wouldn't you ?

But he wasn't. Well, not very often. And do you know why ? It was because he stammered so dreadfully, so that if he wanted to say 'Thank you !' it came out as 'Er - er - tha - tha - thank yer - you !' And it wasn't just the stammering that made him unhappy. It was because the other children used to tease him and mimic him, pretending that they talked like that, too. So, although he was a clever boy and did well in his lessons and got splendid school reports from his teacher and the headmistress, he often felt quite wretched.

And then one morning something wonderful happened.

It began just after he got to the end of the lane at the top of the High Street where he met Constable Hutchinson almost every morning. Constable Hutchinson was fond of Jonty, and sorry about his stammering when every morning Jonty called 'Ger - ger - good mer - mer - morning Cer - Cer - Constable Her - her - Hutchinson !'

But Constable Hutchinson wasn't there this morning, and halfway down the lane Jonty saw a new shop on the other side of the lane. It surprised him because it hadn't been there the day before. And above the window there was a large sign that said 'The Magic Shop'. And Jonty thought at once that it must be one of those shops that sell conjuring tricks and card tricks and that sort of thing. So he crossed over and looked in the window.

And the first thing he saw was a school cap just like the one he was wearing. But this one had a card on it that said 'Stammering Cap'.

Stammering Cap ?

What could it possibly be ? He just had to find out. So he went to the door of the shop and lifted the latch, and the door opened with a sharp 'Dong !' from the bell above the door, and in he went.

There didn't seem to be anyone there, so he waited for a few minutes but no one came. So he thought I'll have to go, or I might be late for school, I'll call in again on my way home from school, he told himself. But before he reached the door he heard a voice say 'Can I help you. Jonty ?'

Who could it be ? he thought. And how do they know my name ?

But he still couldn't see anyone. And then the voice said, 'I'm here !' and this time it seemed to come from behind the counter. So he went forward and looked over. And there on the other side was a little man in what seemed to be fancy dress. A bit like a wizard, he thought, but a bit too small for that. Perhaps he was dressed like that to match the name of the shop.

'Er - er - Excuse mer - mer - me !' he said.

He didn't get any further, because the little man said, 'Just a moment !' Then he went to the back of the window and brought out the cap.

'Here try this on !' he said, and gave it to Jonty, and Jonty put it on.

'Thank you !' he said. 'It fits very nicely !'

At once he stopped dead, speechless with astonishment. Then he took off the cap and said 'Ther - ther - thank yer - yer - you !' And the little man said at once, 'No, don't take it off, or the magic doesn't work !'

Jonty was even more surprised, and put the cap on again.

'How much is it ?' he asked.

So it did work after all ! He hadn't stammered one little bit. He began to wonder whether he could ever afford such a wonderful cap, and he asked the little man the price.

'Oh, I don't sell it to anyone !' the little man replied. 'Only to little boys and girls who are unhappy because they stammer !'

'How much does it cost to them ?' Jonty asked.

'To them it costs nothing at all ! All they have to do is to keep wearing the cap for as long as the magic lasts.'

'And how long is that ?' Jonty asked.

'You'll see !' said the little man. 'Off you go now, or you'll be late for school !'

Jonty couldn't wait to get to school, to tell everyone. Then he suddenly remembered the rude boys who teased him about his stammering. They'd be sure to take his cap and kick it round the playground. And they'd never, never believe why he had to keep it on, even in school. And he'd never be able to tell anyone about the little man at the Magic Shop. Then he had a good idea.

As soon as he got to school he ran indoors to find his teacher.

'Mrs Armitage !' he said. 'I had a note to give you and I've gone and left it at home ! I'm very sorry !'

Mrs Armitage didn't answer at once, and her mouth fell open. So Jonty went on,

'Mummy wanted to ask you if you'd please let me keep my cap on in school. She knows it isn't allowed but, you see, I've cut my head and it's had stitches in, and she thought the cap would protect it !'

It was a long time before Mrs Armitage answered, but at last she said, 'Very well, Jonty ! I'll let the other children know, and I'm sure they'll be very sorry to hear it ! And I'll tell them they mustn't think of taking off your cap because your Mummy asked specially !'

Then she went away, shaking her head, to tell the other teachers what had happened and what she couldn't begin to understand. She couldn't think why Jonty Jones, who stammered so badly yesterday could possibly speak so well today. Nor could the other children, and they kept coming to Jonty and talking to him, just to make sure that he really could talk properly at last. And suddenly, from being treated so badly by them, Jonty became thoroughly popular, and he was delighted. But what pleased him even more was the thought of what Mummy and Daddy would say when he got home after school.

And when the time came he ran home as fast as he could run, and burst through the door crying, 'Mum ! Mum !You'll never believe what's happened !'

His Mummy almost dropped the saucepan she was carrying, and her mouth fell open like Mrs Armitage's.

'Jonty ! Jonty ! What's happened ? Why are you - ?'

But Jonty couldn't wait for her to finish and he told her all about the cap, and about having to keep it on, and he hoped she wouldn't mind. And a few moments his Daddy came in from the garden, and Jonty told him, too. He was just as surprised as everyone else, of course, but being Daddy he tried to work out how it had all come about.

'You know, Jonty, there's a thing called hypnotism - '

Jonty broke in with,

'Oh, I know about that !'

'Quite !' said his Daddy. 'Lots of people know about it, but very few understand it. And even fewer can do it. I expect that's what your little friend did. He convinced you by hypnotism that you could stop stammering if you wore the cap and that if you took it off you'd begin stammering again. Yes ?'

Jonty nodded but he wasn't convinced. If that was what had happened, why had the little man given him the cap for nothing at all, and why did he say it would only work for people who stammered badly ? And how, he thought, could he possibly have known my name ? He decided there and then not to tell anybody what had really happened when he got the cap, only that he had to wear it all the time and not take it off. And he never did, except when he was going to bed when it wouldn't matter, and then he hung it on the hook with his school satchel.

But that wasn't the end of the magic . . .

One morning Jonty got up, got dressed and had breakfast. Then he put on his school satchel and went out into the hall to get his cap.

It wasn't there. He looked everywhere. He knew he'd hung it there before he went to bed. He called to his mother who was washing up in the kitchen.

'Mum ! I can't find my cap !

'Don't be silly, Jonty !' she replied. 'You're not stammering, are you ? I expect you've got it on your head !'

But he hadn't. He searched everywhere but he couldn't find it.

Without waiting to say 'Goodbye' to his Mummy he dashed out of the house and made for the lane at the top of the High Street. He was in such a hurry that he forgot to say 'Good morning !' to Constable Hutchinson as he rushed past him into the lane.

But halfway down the lane, he stopped dead.

Where was the Magic Shop ?

He rushed back to Constable Hutchinson to ask him what had happened to the shop down the lane.

'Shop, Jonty ? There isn't one ! Never has been as far as I know !'

So Jonty poured out to Constable Hutchinson all about the Magic Shop and the little man there. When he was finished, Constable Hutchinson said kindly,

'Well, you know, Jonty, you are speaking properly now, aren't you ? I expect you're right and it was all magic !'

'But I don't understand !' said Jonty. 'What can have happened to the little man ?

Constable Hutchinson smiled, and said gently,

'I expect if the truth's known, Jonty, he'll have opened another shop somewhere else, to help another boy like you. Or even a girl !'

And then Jonty remembered what the little man had said when he asked him how he would know how long the magic would last.

He'd said, 'You'll see !'

And Jonty did.

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