The House at World's End

Free The House at World's End by Monica Dickens

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Authors: Monica Dickens
    ‘As a matter of fact - Carrie shook her hair and gave him her innocent look - ‘my uncle
got me a horse. That’s what he came to tell me last Sunday.’
    ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
    ‘I wanted to surprise you.’ When it was necessary to invent a lie, for safety, or to protect someone - in this case Vile Bernie’s horse - that didn’t count as lying. Necessity was the mother of invention. ‘Come and see.’
    The brown horse had thrown up his head with his ears back, because he was still afraid of men. But when Carriewent up to him, he dropped his mealy nose into her hand and stood quiet, flicking his ears and rolling back his eye as Mr Mismo went all round him, feeling his skin, running a hand down his legs, with the whistling, hissing sound he made when he groomed Princess Margaret Rose.
    When he had finished, all he said was, ‘Brown bread. A load of brown bread every three days and a small cigar to chew once a week to clean out his system. And plenty of Doctor Green.’
    ‘We can’t afford a vet.’
    ‘Doctor Green.’ He waved a hand. ‘All that good sweet grass out there.’
    ‘Oh yes. We’ve got to finish fencing the meadow.’ They could not buy rails or posts or even wire, so they were using everything they could find to patch up the hedges and broken-down fence of the meadow that ran up the gentle hillside behind the house. Drainpipes, bits of split planking, a rotting door they found behind the barn, sheltering thousands of wood lice, an iron bedstead that Michael had begged from an old cottage lady and dragged home up the lane.
    As Mr Mismo left, he asked casually, ‘Where did your uncle get this champion hoss?’
    ‘I - I don’t know.’ Carrie buried her face in John’s wispy mane, which she rubbed every day with oil, to make it grow. She hated not to tell Mr Mismo the truth. She had a feeling he would have enjoyed the story of One-Eyed Jake and the horsenapping. But he was still a grownup. And it was still horse stealing.
    She had told Tom, of course. She had to. He saw Lester and her coming down the lane with the horse, practically carrying him because he was so tired.
    ‘Horse stealing?’ he said, and Carrie said, ‘As a matterof fact, yes,’ and excitedly began to tell him the whole marvellous adventure.
    When she had finished, Lester added, ‘It was my idea.’
    They watched Tom. He looked solemn, his long face, half-boy, half-man considering. Then he let out a shout of laughter and jumped into the air, his hair, which Valentina had tried to get at with the nail scissors from her handbag, flying like a mane.
    ‘I think it was a marvellous idea! Why didn’t you let me help?’
    ‘We thought,’ said Lester, ‘you were old enough to know better.’
    ‘This boy is rude,’ Tom said. ‘Who is he?’
    ‘I told you. A friend of mine. Lester.’
    ‘Lester who?’
    ‘I don’t know.’ Lester had not told Carrie his surname, nor where he lived. With Lester, you didn’t waste time on that kind of boring question. With Lester, you asked questions like, ‘Do you think Mr Mismo’s bull might once have been Henry VIII?’ and, ‘Why do animals want to die alone?’
    ‘I’m incognito,’ Lester said mysteriously. ‘No man knows my name.’
    ‘Because you’re a horse thief?’ Tom was grinning.
    ‘Don’t ask,’ Lester said, and they both laughed.
    When they showed the brown horse to Em, she said the same thing as Tom: ‘Why didn’t you let me help?’
    ‘We will next time,’ Lester said. Now he had met all the family, and they all seemed to like each other. Carrie was relieved. It was wretched when you liked someone, and the other people you liked didn’t.
    ‘But if I’d been there,’ Em said, ‘I’d have taken the pigs out of the van too. It’s just as bad for them.’
    ‘Pigs are born to be eaten,’ Tom said, and Em kicked him in the shin.
    That’s a rotten thing to say.’
    ‘You eat bacon and sausages,’ Tom said.

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