Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station

Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman Read Free Book Online

Book: Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station by Dorothy Gilman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dorothy Gilman
    “And don’t forget,” Malcolm pointed out, “the Chinese gave us silk, printing, gunpowder, and porcelain among other things.”
    “But obviously not the idea of soup to end a meal,” added Jenny.
    Mrs. Pollifax put down her chopsticks. It had been a lavish dinner—melons, rice, pork, shrimp, eggs, tomatoes, more courses than she could count—but she was glad to see it ending.
It’s been a long day
, she thought,
and I miss Cyrus … I can’t go through China missing Cyrus, I have work to do. I haven’t managed Yoga for three days, perhaps that’s it
    They rose from the table, descended dusty wooden stairs, and left the restaurant to be assaulted by the life outside. Mrs. Pollifax revived at once and looked around her with pleasure: at the broad street dense with people and bicycles, at children stopping to stare at them shyly and then smile. Off to one side she saw a line of stalls piled high with shirts, plastic sandals, bananas, sunflower seeds, and nuts. A woman and child sat patiently beside a very small table, waiting to sell a few bottles of garishly bright orange soda pop. Across the street small huts had been squeezed on top of the roof of a long cement building from which the paint was peeling. Flowers in pots stood on ledges, or floweddown from roof dwellings and apartments to overhang the street. The colors were muted, except for the flowers and the flash of an occasional red shirt. Even the sounds were muted: the persistent ringing of bicycle bells—there were no cars—and the shuffle of feet. It was approaching dusk, and the day’s heat had turned into a warmth that mingled pleasantly with the smells of cooking food.
This is more like it
, thought Mrs. Pollifax, drinking in the smells and sights, and it was with reluctance that she climbed back into the minibus.
    This time it was Malcolm Styles who took the seat next to her. As he leaned over to place his small travel kit under the seat a pocket notebook fell out of his pocket and dropped into her lap. She picked it up and handed it back to him, but a solitary sheet of paper had escaped and settled into a niche beside the window. Retrieving this she glanced at it and gasped, “But how lovely!”
    It was a sketch—a line-drawing in pen and ink—of a Chinese child, no more than a quick sketch but with lines so fluid and joyful that it staggered her with its delicacy, its aliveness. She looked at Malcolm with amazement. “You’re an artist!”
    His grin was rueful, those thick brows drawing together deprecatingly. “Of a sort.”
    “Stop being modest,” she told him sternly. “What do you
with a gift like this?”
    His eyes smiled at her. “I’m not at all modest,” he told her. “Really I’m not. I just feel very uncomfortable when people learn that I wrote and illustrated the Tiny Tot series, and am now the author of the Doctor Styles’ picture books, and—”
    “The Doctor Styles’ books!” she exclaimed. “Good heavens, my grandchild adores them, I sent him one at Christmas and—but that means you also wrote
The Boy Who Walked Into a Rainbow?

    He nodded. “That’s me.”
    She gazed at him incredulously. “I thought you were an actor or a fervent businessman,” she told him. “Or a male model—you know, distinguished gentleman who drinks only the best sherry or stands beside a Rolls-Royce smoking a briar pipe and looking owlish.”
    “With attaché case?” he asked interestedly.
to one,” she told him.
    He nodded. “Then you can understand the shock when people discover that I live in a world inhabited by rabbits that talk and mice who rescue small boys.”
    “Well—yes,” she admitted, smiling. “Yes, that could be a shock.”
    “It is,” he assured her. “Usually there’s an instinctive withdrawal, then a look of suspicion, followed by a hearty ‘By Jove that’s nice,’ and a very hasty retreat. I must say you’ve taken it rather well, though.”
    “Not a great

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