"Jenny, come down here, please," Papa demanded.
Jenny ran down the stairs and gazed at her dad innocently. "Yes, Papa?"
Papa walked over to the table where Mama's favorite vase usually stood. "Do you notice anything missing?"
Jenny glanced around the room, trying not to let her eyes settle on the obvious bulge under the rug. "Why, no, Papa."
"Do you know what happened to the vase?"
Jenny stared at her feet. "No, Papa." She peered at Papa, who gave her a disapproving look. "I saw Brother and his friends playing in here earlier today. Maybe they know?" Jenny offered hopefully.
Papa gathered Jenny into his big arms. "Jenny, I think it's time you hear this story. It happened before you were even born, when it was just me, Mama, and Billy.
"One morning, we were all ready to sit down and eat our porridge, but it was too hot, so we took a walk.
"While we were gone, a girl named Goldilocks walked up to the door and knocked, but no one came to the door. She could have decided to go home, or she could have waited for us to come home. We probably would have invited her in. But Goldilocks didn't do that. She just walked right in and sat down at the table. First she ate from my porridge."
Papa bear did his best to imitate the young girl. "'This porridge is too hot!' she said." Jenny giggled at her dad's antics. "Then she tried Mama's porridge. 'This is too cold!' And then she tried Billy's porridge. 'This porridge is just right!' she said. And do you know what she did next?"
"No, what did she do, Papa?"
"She ate up all of Billy's porridge. Now she should have realized that what she had done was wrong. And she could have gone home, or waited and asked us to forgive her. But she didn't.
"Next, Goldilocks went into the living room. First she sat in my chair and Mama's chair. But they were both too big. So she sat in Billy's rocking chair. Billy's chair was just right. She must have been rocking very hard, because soon the chair broke right underneath her. Goldilocks could have gone home. She could have stayed and confessed. I probably would have let her help me paint Billy's chair after I rebuilt it. But she didn't.
"She went into the bedroom. First, she tried my bed. 'This is too hard!' Then she tried Mama's bed. 'This is too soft.' Then she tried Billy's bed. And it was..."
Jenny chimed in with her dad. "Just right!"
"That's right, Jenny. Then, she fell asleep. Well, soon, we came back from our walk. First, we noticed Billy's porridge was gone. His chair was broken too. Next, we went upstairs. There she was, still sleeping. Goldilocks woke up and ran out of the house."
Jenny stared at Papa wide-eyed. "Where's Goldilocks now, Papa?"
"Well, I decided to call the police. She's in Unhappily Ever After Land, with the Big Bad Wolf and Hansel and Gretel."
"But I thought the Big Bad Wolf ran away, and that Hansel and Gretel lived with their mom and dad."
"Is that what they are teaching you in school these days? That people can trespass and not get in trouble? I'm going to have to talk to someone about that.
"Jenny, do you see what I'm telling you? It's always better to fix a problem at the beginning, when you first realize you've made a mistake. If you let it go, it will just get worse. Now is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
Jenny looked down at her big, furry feet. "I did it, Papa. I broke the vase. I was playing with Emily, and she had a new ball she got for Christmas. We were playing with it in the living room, and I threw it too hard and broke the vase. I hid the vase under the rug. I'm sorry Papa. I didn't mean to. I thought if I hid it, no one would notice. I should have told you the truth."
"Well Jenny, I'm glad you told the truth now. Let's go clean up the mess. For your punishment, you'll do some extra chores around the house to help Mama, ok?"
"Ok, Papa. How did you know it was me, anyway?"
Papa tossed Emily's ball into the air. "Does this belong to anyone you know?"
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