11.07.2008

Theft and Adventure

Frankie, the little sneak, stole my diary early this morning. I was taking my turn in the water closet, and he must've nabbed it when he was in the girls' room searching for a toy soldier he claimed to have lost, and blamed Mattie for it. I passed him in the little corridor (and he was giggling), as I returned to the girls' room, and should've suspected something then. But it was not until I picked up my carry-on case that I realized anything was the matter.

The strap of the case snapped clean in half, having finally worn itself out with use, the poor old thing. About six months before each girl at Saint Anne's turns eighteen, preparations for her departure begin. One of those preparations is to acquire luggage. Each girl, of course, has her own trunk at the foot of her bed where her winter clothes are stored in summer, and her summer clothes in winter, as well as personal items not used often such as books, outgrown toys with sentimental value, and other such memorabilia. (All our trunks are identical, as they are built by the same charitable old man who has been making trunks for Saint Anne’s girls since before I was born.) But I needed some smaller things to bring with me on my journey, for the personal effects which would not be accessible while my trunk was stored away in the overhead compartment of the train.

A change of clothes and my toiletries are in a beaten-up old leather shoulder bag, but I kept with me at all times when I was in car three a small, hard-sided little box with a handle for carrying. In it I kept a few periodicals, Maggie's book, the talbotype in its little storage bag, the papers and wipes for the talbotype, the tiny lamp I used to use to read beneath the covers at Saint Anne's, a pair of scissors, a sewing kit, a couple of spare handkerchiefs, and my wallet with an image capture of Jack Winters, and half my money in it. (The other half is sewn into a secret pocket in my petticoat, just in case, which I tell you, Dear Reader, because I know you will not blab.) All in all, everything I would need on a regular basis, but could not keep in my pockets. Also in the case, I kept my pen and ink, and this diary.

To resume my story, I discovered that my diary was missing when the strap of the case broke, the case hit the floor, and everything inside it spilled out onto the tiny square of carpet. Thank goodness the ink bottle remained intact, but a flutter of papers obscured the floor, and my things were everywhere. I cried out and at once dropped to my knees to at least gather the things into one pile and clear the floor, as Adelaide was helping Mattie get dressed, and Mary, the maid, was gathering up the girls' things to launder. (I still have not asked Adelaide how the matter of plumbing is handled on the train. How does one do laundry in a moving vehicle?)

"I'm sorry," I wailed, sweeping the scattered newspapers into my arms.

"It's all right," said Adelaide, and knelt as well to help me. Mattie was almost overeager to assist, and I flinched when she slightly crumpled the cover of Maggie's book by unwittingly stepping on it, but I thanked her for her help nonetheless.

Once I had gathered everything up, I began to return it to its proper place in the case, only I noticed my diary had gone missing. "Oh dear," I said softly, and climbed the first few steps of the built-in ladder in order to peer into my bed cubby. Perhaps, I thought, I had left the diary in the little shelf at the head of my bed. But no, the lamp was there, and the stockings I had taken off in the middle of the night when I grew too warm, but nothing else. So it *had* to be in the case! I searched the entirety of the thing again, then took everything out, spread it on Mattie's bed, and went through it item by item. No diary.

"It'll turn up," Adelaide said once I told her of my concern, then hurried me out the door to breakfast, as Mrs. Kynton did not like anyone to be late.

The school table doubles as the dining table, and all the family but the patriarch and Arthur Matthews was already there. "Is everything well, girls?" Mrs. Kynton asked.

"I cannot find my diary," I said, slumping into my seat.

"Oh dear," she murmured. "I shall help you look for it after breakfast."

"Thank you, ma'am," I mumbled, and took the bowl of boiled oats Samuel passed to me.

"Awful bad luck," Frankie said brightly. (Stupid of him, really.)

"It is," I sighed, not yet comprehending, and passed the bowl on after taking some for myself.

"Frankie," Mrs. Kynton said in a warning tone I had only heard once since meeting her. (It had been directed at her youngest son that time, too.)

"Yes ma'am?" He sat up straight and met her gaze unblinkingly. The little sneak!

"Do you know anything of the whereabouts of Miss Greenwater's diary?"

He slowly shook his head, though I noticed his eyes were diverted from hers and he stared, instead, at the sugar bowl.

“Are you certain?” she pressed, still very calmly.

Now the boy dropped his eyes to the tabletop in front of him. “I... might’ve seen it.”

I was sure that he had taken it then, but managed to keep my mouth shut and let Mrs. Kynton deal with her horrid son.

“Will you go and retrieve Miss Greenwater’s diary from where you saw it, and return it to her?” He nodded, then stood slowly and trudged into the next car. All was silent until he reappeared, diary in hand, and trudged back to the table.

“Here,” he said, hardly audible, and thrust the diary toward me.

I did not take it.

“Do you have something to say to Miss Greenwater?” asked Mrs. Kynton.

“Sorry I took your diary,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry?” I leaned a little closer to him, though I still did not take back what was rightfully mine. “I did not quite hear you.”

“Sorry!” he said a little louder.

“You are sorry?” I pressed, eyes wide, all innocence, though we both knew exactly what was going on. “For what?”

“I’m sorry for nicking your diary!” Frankie nearly yelled, then he dropped the book in my lap and stomped back to his seat.

Mrs. Kynton appeared to be coughing into her napkin, though by the way her eyes were crinkling at the corners, it seemed to me that she was stifling a laugh or a smile. Once she had herself under control, she told her son, “Come and see me before you start your lessons, and we shall have a talk about what is and is not the proper way to gain a young lady’s attentions.” To me, she said only, “I am glad your property has been returned to you, Miss Greenwater, and I trust we shall hear no more about it?”

I had already been plotting revenge against Frankie, having learned a great many tricks at Saint Anne’s, but Mrs. Kynton’s kind, trusting gaze sent all thoughts of vengence from my head, and I felt ashamed for it. “Yes, ma’am,” I said meekly, and returned to my meal.

(I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that I finally met Mr. Kynton last night at supper. His reaction upon seeing me was similar to his wife’s. “Doesn’t she look just like Alice?” he asked as he took off his cap and rubbed his hand over his bald spot, apparently a gesture of great shock. His wife merely replied that I did, then tactfully changed the subject. Mr. Kynton was not present at breakfast this morning because he had the late shift last night, and was able to sleep until nearly noon because of it, the controls having been entrusted to Arthur.)

As everything is settled away, I am off to see Sun City! I feel the train slowing as I write here on the squashy sofa. Soon I shall be alone in a strange town, and though I am a little nervous, I am mostly too excited to sit still!

_____

I brought my case with me, a bit of string looped between the metal rings--rectangles?--which used to secure the strap to the case itself, as a temporary fix. (I am not leaving my personal effects anywhere that sneaky little Frankie can get to them! The thought that he only stole my precious diary because he likes me is ridiculous and revolting. It makes no sense, but then, no one ever accused little boys of making sense.) However, I have dropped the case off at a leather-worker’s shoppe to have a replacement handle made and fitted. The man there gave me a spare muslin drawstring sack to place my belongings in, and bid me return in an hour, so I am sitting in a park eating a bag of cinnamon-sugar almonds I bought from a man with a little cart, and feeling very mature and adventurous! If I do not become too distracted by--

My goodness, it is difficult to eat these and write at the same time! The sugar gets all over my fingers, and all down my chin if I am not careful. There, the last of it is gone now.

Now, I shall record my impression of the town, if I do not become too distracted by people-watching.

The train station I disembarked at looked and sounded (and smelled) very similar to the train station I entered when I first began my journey a week ago, so I shall not go into detail about it. One thing was different: there were richer people milling about, and therefore more colours.

And oh, the colours! It seems I have seen more colour today in Sun City--aptly named, by the way, as it is dreadfully hot and dusty, and the sun seems to shine directly on me no matter where I am--than I have in my entire life! I suppose there must be quite a large population of wealthy people here, for I have seen all colours of the rainbow in the way of clothing and adornments! Ruby-red, sky-blue, and the most fashionable jonquil-yellow, and several gowns in bright puce! Gentlemen dressed in black suits with tangerine or lime green cravats. The feathers in ladies’ hats were dyed unimaginable colours! And I caught many a glint of gold and jewel on fingers, throats, and earlobes.

Somehow this town in the middle of the desert has become quite prosperous, for it is not only the wealthy I see wearing expensive chemically-dyed clothing. There are gypsies and beggars in cast-off, patched-up coats and skirts and hats of all colours, and I think no few snatched jewels, too. Dirty, screaming children run amok in the streets, clad in a mishmash of white peasant clothes and vibrant accessories: sashes, little waistcoats, stockings. Even the shoppe keepers seem vibrant, wearing mostly naturally-dyed clothes, but with a lurid orange overskirt here or a wine-coloured shirt there.

I think I shall just sit here and soak it all up, saving the memories of such displayed--nay, even flaunted luxury for some dark and dreary day. A fond farewell until I return again tomorrow!

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Well I am certainly glad that your diary was found, let's hope that Frankie didn't read any of it lest he find out his sister's secret! I certainly hope that you have someone take a capture of you and Adelaide with your talbotype! Maybe even two so that you could send one back to Maggie and Miss P and still keep one for yourself.

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