The Diddakoi | Chapter 7 of 15 - Part: 1 of 6

Author: Rumer Godden | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1037 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Two

‘What shall we do with Kizzy?’

It was two days later, the evening of Gran’s funeral, and they had just had supper in the orchard: Lumas and Mrs Doe, their fourteen-year-old twins and their son Boyo, the two Smiths, the Smiths’ grown-up son, his wife and baby, old, old Uncle Jess and Kizzy were gathered round the fire, drinking mugs of tea. The fire was large and sent sparks up into the sky. Joe made a dark shape at the end of the orchard; he seemed to want to keep away from the motor caravan, the trailer and lorry, and occasionally blew through his nostrils as if he did not like the smell of them, or having all these people in his orchard, and shook his head.

Kizzy sat on the ground, her chin on her knees so that the brown cardigan could cover them, her arms round them. ‘Give Boyo your box,’ Mrs Doe had commanded. ‘He’s got a cold coming on and mustn’t sit on the ground.’ ‘You’re making a fool of that boy,’ said Uncle Jess, but Mrs Doe took no notice and without a word Kizzy had got up and let the big heavy boy in his thick corduroy breeches have her warm place. Mrs Smith – she had told Kizzy to call her Aunt Em – made room for her on the plank bench, but Kizzy sat on the ground; she seemed smaller like that and perhaps if she were out of sight they would forget her. If they did she could live perfectly well in the orchard with Joe and the wagon; if they would all just go away but they went on talking over her head.

‘Wish we could take her,’ said Mrs Smith.

‘We could but . . .’ said Mrs Doe, and the ‘but’ seemed to fill the whole orchard.

‘Should be no argument,’ said Uncle Jess. ‘Even if they’re not our family, our children stay with us.’

‘All very well for you to talk,’ Mrs Smith and Mrs Doe said together. ‘’Tisn’t you as does it.’

The lights from the trailers threw bright circles on the grass, brighter than any lights had been in the orchard for a long time; Gran had had an oil lamp with an old pink shade, but now the wagon stood apart and unlit. ‘We’ll see to that at midnight,’ said Mrs Doe. ‘Don’t want no snoopers.’

‘They won’t be out tonight,’ said Mr Smith. ‘Far too cold,’ and indeed more snow was falling. The fire was hot on Kizzy’s face, the twigs and branches crackled cheerfully, but her back was cold; she was cold inside too, with a fear that was growing. If only they would go away.

The wagon was almost empty; Mrs Doe had taken Kizzy’s bedding and put it in one of their tents with Boyo. ‘You can sleep here.’ Kizzy had protested. ‘I want to sleep in our own wagon.’

‘Hush,’ said Aunt Em Smith. ‘No one can sleep there.’

‘Why not?’

‘For one thing your Gran left her orders.’ For another, though Mrs Smith did not say it, many true travellers will not use anything belonging to the dead; besides, there were Gran’s wishes. ‘Doesn’t do to go against the dead,’ yet there was Mrs Doe arguing about Gran’s china.

‘It’s mine too,’ said Kizzy, but no one listened.

‘Old Crown Derby, that’s what it is,’ declared Mrs Doe. ‘Might be worth a mint.’

‘Us must smash it.’

‘Nonsense, Em. Prob’ly ten pounds a cup and saucer.’

‘Us must.’

‘That’s old thinking.’ Mrs Doe was scornful. ‘Look, you take half and I’ll take half.’

‘Why if I took any of that into the trailer, I should be feart!’ said Mrs Smith. ‘To begin with, Uncle Jess would have a fit.’

Uncle! He’s old. ’Course he thinks like that, but why bother about him?’ Mrs Doe’s voice was shrill. ‘Come on, Em. You can have first pick,’ but Mrs Smith shook her head and backed away. ‘Well, please yourself,’ and Mrs Doe took the china, the mirror, even the vase of plastic flowers into her caravan. ‘The fry pan’s good,’ she took that too. So I can’t make pan cake, thought Kizzy, but the old bucket and saucepans were left. I can manage with those. Gran, in the letter, had not mentioned Kizzy. ‘’Course not,’ said Uncle Jess. ‘Her took it for granted.’

Uncle Jess was a Smith, an old old man, almost as old as Gran; he lived and travelled with his Smith grandson’s family and had no wagon or trailer of his own. ‘If I had, things would be different,’ said Uncle Jess.

‘Now Uncle,’ said Mrs Smith. The Smiths had Uncle Jess, their son, his wife and baby and just one trailer and a small tent, while the Does were moving into a council house. ‘Settling,’ said Uncle Jess in disdain, ‘going in brick!’

‘It’s for school,’ said Mrs Doe. ‘Boyo must go to school – and the girls, of course. The Council don’t like overcrowding – and it isn’t children,’ she added under Uncle Jess’s scornful eye, ‘’tisn’t children as are the bother. When they could just be let run, one child more or less didn’t matter. These days, it’s the things they have to have.’

Kizzy raised her head. ‘I don’t want any things.’

‘’Tisn’t what you want, dearie,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘It’s what they say you have to have – uniforms.’ Uncle Jess snorted. ‘They do, Uncle – blazers at least and shoes and satchels.’

‘Bathing things, a towel, and I don’t know what,’ said Mrs Doe. ‘Then it’s ten pence for this, ten pence for that. I tell you it’s hard enough to afford it for the three we have,’ said Mrs Doe. ‘Wish we could manage to take Kizzy, but we can’t. She goes to school here – they’ll find her a foster home.’


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