Great Meadow

Free Great Meadow by Dirk Bogarde

Book: Great Meadow by Dirk Bogarde Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dirk Bogarde
and it was pretty awful. It always tasted of tin, but our father said it was tannin but didn’t explain what that was. Anyway, it was pretty rotten, but hot. We couldn’t dawdle really, had to eat quite fast because the rest was only for half an hour and some people hadn’t even got their tea from the urn and were eating fat bun-things with white sugar on top. I liked the look of them, and I would have asked if I could have bought one, only Flora began to rustle about in her satchel-thing. It had a strap and hung over her shoulder and had a big ink blot on it, so I knew it was her best for school.
    I was pretty interested really because I thought that perhaps she might be fishing about for a piece of Edinburgh rock, and that put me off thinking about the sugar-bun, and then Lally said, very kindly, ‘What are you looking for, Flora dear? A hanky?’ She was always kind to guests and used her Patient Voice. They were not what she called ‘her children’, like we were, so she took particular care to be absolutely lovely to them and that way she could be pretty rotten to us because we belonged to her and she was trying to make us into little ladies and gentlemen. Except, I wasn’t interested. Which is why she could give you a cuff.
    Anyway, Flora was mucking about, tumbling things over in her satchel and beginning to whine. Girls always do, it seems. Her face screwed up like an old glove, all bumps and creases.
    â€˜Whatever is it, Flora?’ said Lally in her Patient Voice.
    â€˜Oh! Oh, dearie me! Dearie-me-today!’ wailed Flora. ‘Ican’t find my wee black cat and it brings me luck and I’ve had him all my life and if I can’t find him, then I’ll just die. Here at this very table.’
    That won’t do. Won’t do at all,’ said Lally a bit sharply.
    My sister didn’t say anything. She just sat quietly chewing her egg and cress and swinging her legs. If she hadn’t been so busy chewing her sandwich she would have had a rather nasty smile on her face, but she just chewed, and bits of cress slid down her chin, and she went on chewing away watching wretched Flora.
    Suddenly Lally grabbed the satchel and pulled out a terrific clutter of matchboxes, hair slides, a bit of ribbon, half a stick of liquorice, an empty scent bottle and a hair brush full of blond hair. And there, among the bristles and the old bits of Flora’s hair, was her black cat.
    â€˜Oh!’ cried Flora. ‘You found him! How
ever
can I thank you, pray?’
    â€˜Don’t want you falling dead in the middle of the Fel-bridge rest-café, do we?’ She started being brisk with the paper napkins and the cork of the Thermos. ‘Now then, quick sharp. We’ll be off soon, I reckon.’
    Flora was mooning away like anything over her silly glass cat which hadn’t even been lost. Anyway, it was only as big as a fingernail, hardly worth bothering about.
    â€˜Now all of you eat up. I declare we’ll be on our way because the driver and that very polite conductor have put on their caps, and that’s the signal for us to be off again. Quick sharp, please!’
    Flora stuffed the last piece of chicken and ham into her mouth and showed me the stupid cat.
    â€˜Look! He’s so pretty. He’s got a wee gold collar, see? And green diamond eyes. He’s terribly pretty, I think.’
    â€˜There are no such things as green diamonds,’ I said.
    â€˜There are too! He’s got them! So there must be. Look how they wink! That’s why he’s lucky, he knows.’
    My sister had finished her sandwich and was swallowing hard, and at the same time pressed her fingertips on all the spilled crumbs on the table top. She was always greedy, and she put them on her lips and licked them in and ate them slowly. ‘I got one of those cats once, from a cracker,’ she said.
    Flora looked at her with hatred. ‘Liar!’ she said, and Lally

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