The Higginbottom boys were horrible children. Everywhere that Henry, Harvey and Horace went, trouble popped up like toast out of a toaster.
They terrified the neighbour's cats, teased old ladies, and tormented young Benjie, the boy next door. Because they were triplets, they thought they were special. Everyone else in the street thought they were perfect pests and said, "Something should be done about those horrible Higginbottom boys!"
Old Mrs Mitch was a round little lady. She wore a squashy, black hat held in place by two long hat pins which went under the bun of white hair on top of her head. The Higginbottom boys said the pins went through her brain. They said she must be a witch.
One day when the boys were out and about with time on their hands and mischief on their minds, they saw Mrs Mitch coming along the street with a bag in one hand and her walking stick in the other. As they passed, Henry 'accidentally' bumped Horace, who 'accidentally' bumped Harvey, who 'accidentally' bumped into Mrs Mitch. The old lady sat down plonk, dropped her walking stick and her bag, sending potatoes rolling over the footpath. Horace snatched up the walking stick and whacked a potato over Mr Jackson's fence while Harvey and Henry danced around shouting, "Mitchy the Witch! Mitchy the Witch!"
Mrs Mitch shook her fist. "Yes!" she shouted. "Clear off before I put spell on you!" The boys didn't really think she was a witch, but just in case, Horace threw down the stick and they ran away, almost flattening Benjie as he came around the corner.
He hurried forward to help Mrs Mitch. "Are you all right?" he asked.
She straightened her hat. "Yes," she said, "but something should be done about those horrible Higginbottom boys." Benjie handed Mrs Mitch her stick, gathered up the potatoes and walked home with her.
When they reached her cottage, she said, "You're a good boy, Benjie. Come in. I have a little something for you." On a high shelf, sat a little barrel made of dark, shiny wood with a silver lid and handle and bands of silver around its body. From it, Mrs Mitch took a small paper bag. She handed it to Benjie. When he looked inside he saw six black beans.
"Yumm! Jelly Beans!" he said. "Thank you, Mrs Mitch. The black ones are the best."
Mrs Mitch smiled. "Not just Jelly Beans, Benjie, they're Jumping Beans. A jump in every chew. A jump as high as a dinosaur's eye. A jump just for you!"
As Benjie went out of the gate, he popped a bean into his mouth and straight away, felt a tingling in his toes. He gave a little jump and flew as high as the hedge. He chewed again and jumped as high as the house. What fun! he cried, and, Boing! Boing! Boing! he jumped off down the street in giant, kangaroo leaps.
Next afternoon on the way home from school, Benjie met little Susie wailing like a fire engine. The Higginbottom boys had tossed her school bag over a high wall. Benjie popped a bean into his mouth, jumped over the wall, snatched the bag and jumped back again. Susie had always liked Benjie. Now she liked him even more.
The next day Benjie heard Mrs Jackson calling, "Here, Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!" Henry, Harvey and Horace had chased her kitten high into a tree. Benjie chewed another bean, zoomed up amongst the branches and rescued it.
Then around the corner came the Higginbottom boys. "What are you eating?" growled Horace. Henry took one of Benjie's arms, Harvey took the other, they swung him round and round like a ball on a string, then let him go. When Benjie flopped onto his back, Horace jumped on top of him, searched his pockets and found the last three beans.
The horrible boys gobbled one each and they began to jump. But they didn't jump like Benjie! Their arms and legs flew about like washing in the wind. Henry's shirt caught on Mr Jackson's T.V. aerial. Harvey landed head first down a chimney, his legs waving in the air like a sick grasshopper. Horace came down on top of a power pole and didn't dare move in case he disappeared in a sizzling shower of sparks.
"Help!" cried Henry.
"Help!" cried Horace, and
"H-e-l-p!" came Harvey's faint cry from deep inside the chimney.
Benjie lay on his back and laughed until his sides ached. Then he staggered to his feet. "Hold on!" he called, and ran to fetch Mrs Mitch.
"This, I have to see!" she chuckled as she put on her hat, picked up her walking stick and followed Benjie.
The boys were still stuck up in the air, still calling for help.
"Listen to me!" called Mrs Mitch. "I will rescue you if you promise to behave. No more being horrible. Do you promise?"
"We promise!" they cried.
Mrs Mitch held up her walking stick. It grew longer and longer and, one by one she hooked the boys down with it and stood them in a line where they looked at each other with sly grins. They knew what their promises were worth.
"Now remember," Mrs Mitch said, wagging her finger under their noses, "a promise is a promise. If you break your promise I will come when you are asleep and pop beans between your teeth. You will jump for a week and you might end up on the moon. That is my promise to you! Understand?"
The boys looked at the ground and shuffled their feet. "Yes, Mrs Mitch," they muttered. They sneaked off down the street to the sound of loud cheers from the neighbours who were very pleased that at last something had been done about those horrible Higginbottom boys.
As for Benjie, he'd grown to like jumping so much, he asked his parents to buy him a trampoline for Christmas. He practiced and practiced until he became the trampoline champion of the whole world and when they hung the gold medal around his neck, he said a silent thank you in his heart to Mrs Mitch and her magical, jumping beans.
© Janet Pates
Read our interview with Janet Pates.