The Diddakoi | Chapter 9 of 15 - Part: 1 of 9

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

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Chapter Four

‘The case of Kizzy Lovell’.

The Children’s Department had decided to bring it before the Court, ‘Because we’re flummoxed,’ said Mr Blount.

The main room of a Town Hall, even of such a small town as Rye, seemed an oddly impressive place in which to discuss the fate of a small diddakoi.

The stairs up to it were wide with a heavy red cord on brass links as a banister rail. In the vestibule was a wooden model of a ship under a great glass dome that caught the light. The room itself was high, wide and long, with high windows. There was a dais at one end, a big table below; it took anyone walking from the door a good many steps to reach that table, especially if they were child steps.

Above the dais were the royal arms of England, the lion and the unicorn in gold and blue; below them a shield with the arms of Rye, three lions rampant on three ships’ sterns in gold. All round the walls were panels lettered in gold with the names of the reigning king and queen, all the kings and queens of England from the time of Edward the First, 1272, and of all the mayors of Rye who had served in their reigns. From the ceiling hung heavy gilded chandeliers.

Now the table was covered with papers, a group of people sat along three sides with the Chairman’s higher-backed chair in the centre; he had a woman magistrate on either side, the one on the left was Miss Brooke. Mr Blount as the Children’s Officer was there, and Doctor Harwell; so, also, to their annoyance, was Mrs Cuthbert. ‘Of course I should be there,’ Mrs Cuthbert had said. ‘Wasn’t I the one who discovered Kizzy? And I am on the School Board.’ She had been determined and indignant.

Mr Blount had written Kizzy’s story as briefly as possible; he also had a letter about her from the Admiral. ‘Please read them to the Court,’ said the Chairman and, when they were finished, ‘Go on, Mr Blount.’

‘Well, sir, Admiral Sir Archibald Cunningham Twiss kept Kizzy while she was ill—’

Mr Blount was interrupted by Mrs Cuthbert: ‘She ought to have gone to hospital. I said so at the time.’

‘. . . while she was ill,’ repeated Mr Blount, ‘but she is well now and, for all the Admiral’s kindness, we doubt if it’s fit, sir, for her to stay on at Amberhurst House.’

‘Not with three old men,’ said Mrs Cuthbert and Doctor Harwell was nettled to reply, after he had looked at the Chairman for permission, ‘I believe Admiral Twiss is sixty, Peters, the houseman, in his fifties, while Nat might be forty-five,’ said Doctor Harwell. ‘That is not old.’

‘Too old to look after a child.’

‘Please don’t speak out of order, Mrs Cuthbert,’ and the Chairman resumed, ‘It seems they looked after her very well. We have Doctor Harwell’s report, but even if it were desirable, it would not be fair to ask Admiral Twiss to—’

‘Keep her.’ Mrs Cuthbert could not resist finishing for him. ‘Of course not. She must go into a Home.’

Ignoring Mrs Cuthbert, the Chairman asked Mr Blount, ‘You have tried all your register of foster-parents?’

‘Yes sir, but it isn’t easy to place a traveller child.’ Mr Blount looked worried. ‘They seem . . . afraid of her, sir.’

‘Well, do you wonder,’ Mrs Cuthbert broke in again. ‘She’s a little wildcat. There was trouble at school and you should see the scratching she gave my Prue. She’s dirty—’

‘Not now,’ said Mr Blount.

‘Not even house-trained.’

‘She is now.’

‘And they say she hasn’t a vestige of table manners.’

‘Mr Blount! Mrs Cuthbert! May I remind you we are in Court where we do not speak out of order.’

‘I’m sorry, sir.’ Mr Blount was ruffled but Mrs Cuthbert closed her bag with an angry snap as, ‘Miss Brooke,’ the Chairman turned to her. ‘I think you have something to say?’

‘Only that you can’t expect to have table manners when you haven’t a table. Some gypsy children eat with their fingers and wipe them on their hair afterwards.’

‘Ugh!’ said Mrs Cuthbert.

‘It isn’t “ugh” to them. They believe it makes hair soft and silky – and you know, in some ways they think us dirty.’

‘Us? Dirty?’ Mrs Cuthbert was incredulous.

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