The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth

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5.

There is, it seems, an upward limit to the pride of maternity, and this in the case of Mrs. Redwood was reached when her offspring completed his sixth month of terrestrial existence, broke down his high-class bassinet-perambulator, and was brought home, bawling, in the milk-truck. Young Redwood at that time weighed fifty-nine and a half pounds, measured forty-eight inches in height, and gripped about sixty pounds. He was carried upstairs to the nursery by the cook and housemaid. After that, discovery was only a question of days. One afternoon Redwood came home from his laboratory to find his unfortunate wife deep in the fascinating pages of The Mighty Atom, and at the sight of him she put the book aside and ran violently forward and burst into tears on his shoulder.

“Tell me what you have done to him,” she wailed. “Tell me what you have done.” Redwood took her hand and led her to the sofa, while he tried to think of a satisfactory line of defence.

“It’s all right, my dear,” he said; “it’s all right. You’re only a little overwrought. It’s that cheap perambulator. I’ve arranged for a bath-chair man to come round with something stouter to-morrow— ”

Mrs. Redwood looked at him tearfully over the top of her handkerchief.

“A baby in a bath-chair?” she sobbed.

“Well, why not?”

“It’s like a cripple.”

“It’s like a young giant, my dear, and you’ve no cause to be ashamed of him.”

“You’ve done something to him, Dandy,” she said. “I can see it in your face.”

“Well, it hasn’t stopped his growth, anyhow,” said Redwood heartlessly.

“I knew,” said Mrs. Redwood, and clenched her pocket-handkerchief ball fashion in one hand. She looked at him with a sudden change to severity. “What have you done to our child, Dandy?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s so big. He’s a monster.”

“Nonsense. He’s as straight and clean a baby as ever a woman had. What’s wrong with him?”

“Look at his size.”

“That’s all right. Look at the puny little brutes about us! He’s the finest baby— ”

“He’s too fine,” said Mrs. Redwood.

“It won’t go on,” said Redwood reassuringly; “it’s just a start he’s taken.”

But he knew perfectly well it would go on. And it did. By the time this baby was twelve months old he tottered just one inch under five feet high and scaled eight stone three; he was as big in fact as a St. Peter’s in Vaticano cherub, and his affectionate clutch at the hair and features of visitors became the talk of West Kensington. They had an invalid’s chair to carry him up and down to his nursery, and his special nurse, a muscular young person just out of training, used to take him for his airings in a Panhard 8 h.p. hill-climbing perambulator specially made to meet his requirement? It was lucky in every way that Redwood had his expert witness connection in addition to his professorship.

When one got over the shock of little Redwood’s enormous size, he was, I am told by people who used to see him almost daily teufteufing slowly about Hyde Park, a singularly bright and pretty baby. He rarely cried or needed a comforter. Commonly he clutched a big rattle, and sometimes he went along hailing the bus-drivers and policemen along the road outside the railings as “Dadda!” and “Babba!” in a sociable, democratic way.

“There goes that there great Boomfood baby,” the bus-driver used to say.

“Looks ’ealthy,” the forward passenger would remark.

“Bottle fed,” the bus-driver would explain. “They say it ’olds a gallon and ’ad to be specially made for ’im.”

“Very ’ealthy child any’ow,” the forward passenger would conclude.

When Mrs. Redwood realized that his growth was indeed going on indefinitely and logically— and this she really did for the first time when the motor-perambulator arrived— she gave way to a passion of grief. She declared she never wished to enter her nursery again, wished she was dead, wished the child was dead, wished everybody was dead, wished she had never married Redwood, wished no one ever married anybody, Ajaxed a little, and retired to her own room, where she lived almost exclusively on chicken broth for three days. When Redwood came to remonstrate with her, she banged pillows about and wept and tangled her hair.

“He’s all right,” said Redwood. “He’s all the better for being big. You wouldn’t like him smaller than other people’s children.”

“I want him to be like other children, neither smaller nor bigger. I wanted him to be a nice little boy, just as Georgina Phyllis is a nice little girl, and I wanted to bring him up nicely in a nice way, and here he is”— and the unfortunate woman’s voice broke— “wearing number four grown-up shoes and being wheeled about by—­booboo!— Petroleum!

“I can never love him,” she wailed, “never! He’s too much for me! I can never be a mother to him, such as I meant to be!”

But at last, they contrived to get her into the nursery, and there was Edward Monson Redwood ("Pantagruel” was only a later nickname) swinging in a specially strengthened rocking-chair and smiling and talking “goo” and “wow.” And the heart of Mrs. Redwood warmed again to her child, and she went and held him in her arms and wept.

“They’ve done something to you,” she sobbed, “and you’ll grow and grow, dear; but whatever I can do to bring you up nice I’ll do for you, whatever your father may say.”

And Redwood, who had helped to bring her to the door, went down the passage much relieved. (Eh! but it’s a base job this being a man— with women as they are!)

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