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It was a bright sunny spring afternoon as Hester and her brother Rupert were rehearsing for their first musical composition.
With their parents away for the long Bank Holiday weekend, to attend a relation's wedding, it was the perfect opportunity for the young duo to perform without any disturbance.
But as they lived in a semi-detached house, it just meant a little care had to be taken so as not to disturb Mr. Dibbins, their next door neighbour, who absolutely detested loud sound of any kind.
"You know Hester," said Rupert, softly striking the wooden bars of his xylophone keyboard with its mallets, "what we really need right now is some kind of studio flat, or a garage, where we could perform for several hours."
Upon contact, the pleasant echo of metallic sound-waves filled their room.
"I can see your point, Rupert" replied Hester, placing her acoustic guitar around her neck, "but unfortunately we just can't afford it yet; it's as simple as that."
She strummed a chord and gave a cheeky smile.
Rupert raised his eyebrows and said, "I don't see what there is to smile about, how about sharing the joke with me?"
"Oh you'll find out very shortly." Hester stared at the wall clock.
"May I know exactly how long is shortly?"
"Any moment now." She replied.
Just then the phone rang.
Hester ran excitedly in the hall and picked up the receiver.
"Hi Hester, it's Roger, I'm just ringing to let you know I'm on my way and should reach you within fifteen minutes."
"Oh that's just great! See you then, Oh and please make sure you tip-toe quietly to the main front door, as Mr. Dibbins doesn't like..."
But her words were cut short as Roger had already ended the call.
"Who was that Hester?" Rupert called out.
"You have a very inquisitive nature." replied Hester, returning to the room with the guitar still suspended safely around her.
She began to strum softly.
"Yes, but what about the surprise? Besides, while Mum and Dad are away it's my responsibility to take care of you and all that goes on here."
He played a few more bars of his xylophone.
Barely had Hester opened her mouth to reply when suddenly the phone rang. Once again, she went running to the hallway.
"Hello, who is it?"
A soft low voice replied,
"Hi Hester, it's Karen. Listen, I've caught a mild cold and I don't want you or Rupert to catch it so..."
"Oh don't worry about that; just make sure you reach here in time. We'll have great fun, and please don't make any loud noise as Mr. Dibbins.."
Once again there was no response from the other end and Hester returned to the room.
But this time, Rupert's curiosity grew even more, as he really wanted to know what exactly was going on.
"Hester, look, I think the surprise element has played its part, now please will you kindly tell me what it is?"
She glanced up at the clock. I was nearing 3.30 p.m.
"In a short time, all will be revealed."
"But maybe your idea of a surprise might not be mine, and besides, if Mr. Dibbins hears any noise, he's going to be furious and have a go at me!"
"Oh Rupert, you worry too much, just relax a little, and try to smile more often."
Just then the doorbell rang, followed by the very loud sound of a trumpet.
"Yikes, who could that be?" Hester said in a state of panic.
Rupert raised his eyebrows and stood up, folding his arms with a 'I told you so' look across his face. "Now do you see my point?"
She gazed at him apologetically with a pleading look meant to melt his heart; she then hurried down the stairs to the front door.
There, to her surprise, stood Andy, holding his trumpet.
Not only that; behind him stood her other friends, Karen and Roger.
Hester's eyes widened and she tried to hush them.
"No please..." but Andy was in a jovial mood and called out to the others.
"Alright everyone, one to three, go." Simultaneously they all held their instruments and began to play and sing out aloud.
"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Rupert, Happy Birthday to you."
By this time Rupert had made his way down the stairs and emerged at the door. There was a mixed look on his face of happiness, coupled with fear as his eyes glanced across, as did Hester, to Mr. Dibbins front door, which opened!
He stood there, alert, and advanced towards the group of friends.
"Oh, now you've gone and done it Hester, I really appreciate your feelings and the surprise, but I think it's back-fired."
For a moment he stood there staring at them, after which he turned to Rupert.
"Birthday, eh? Well you lot, don't just stand there gaping, let's complete the song then!"
To their surprise, Mr. Dibbins began to sing out at the top of his voice, waving his arms up and down for the others to join in.
"For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow; and so say all of us."
"Mr. Dibbins," said Rupert, mouth-gaped, and so embarrassed, "On behalf of all my friends, I'm so sorry about the noise, I..."
"Oh nonsense, I think you youngsters may have misunderstood me. I told your parents I don't like loud noise, but I didn't say I disliked music."
"Really?" asked Hester.
She rushed up to Mr. Dibbins and gave him a tight hug.
"Now, I'm sorry I don't have any gift for you, but there is one thing you can give to me. I would like to invite you all around to my place and perform your music for the rest of the evening.
That is, if you're not still afraid of me."
They all glanced at one another; then responded simultaneously,
"Thank you Mr. Dibbins, we'd love to!"
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