Old Filth

Old Filth by Jane Gardam Read Free Book Online

Book: Old Filth by Jane Gardam Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Gardam
he still have to do Welsh?” asked blonde Claire.
    â€œWelsh! I should hope not.”
    â€œWhat if you get a stupid boy?” asked Babs from the shadows (and thought: I do not like this man; he’ll change Eddie).
    â€œEddie isn’t stupid,” said Claire and, suddenly aware—for here came Auntie May with luggage—that Eddie was going away, she jumped from her plinth and hugged him as she had never done in all the terrible years since they met at Liverpool Docks. She began to cry.
    â€œSh-shut up, Claire.” Eddie turned to the man accusingly and said, “Claire never cries.” He looked down at Claire’s top-knot, felt her arms round him, did not know what to do about it and carefully removed himself.
    â€œAuntie May,” said Auntie May to Sir. “I am Auntie May.”
    â€œAh, the redoubtable Auntie May. You are seeing to the girls, I hear? This would be quite outside my territory. I teach only boys. My establishment is very expensive and very well-known. I am unmarried, as is Mr. Smith, but let me say, for all things good should be noised abroad, that there is absolutely nothing unpleasant going on in my school. We are perfectly clean. There is nothing like that.”
    â€œWell, that will be a change for him,” said Auntie May. “There’s been nothing pleasant here.”
    â€œSo I understand. Or rather I do not understand for such events are beyond comprehension in a well-run Outfit. There is no corporal punishment in my school. And there is no emotional hysteria. One can only suppose that these things are the result of the mixture of the sexes. I never teach girls.”
    â€œWhat happened here was not to do with a school. These children went to the village school.”
    â€œWhich accounts for the pink child’s regional accent. Come, boy, say your goodbyes. At my school nobody leaves with an accent.”
    â€œGoodbye,” said Eddie, looking only at Sir’s face. He remembered to shake hands with Auntie May and say, “Th-th-tha-thank you.” Ignoring the girls, for the three of them would all their lives be beyond formalities, he picked up some of his belongings, Auntie May some more and Sir none at all and they processed to the car, where Sir unfastened broad leather straps and the back was lifted, like the lid of a bread-bin.
    â€œIt’s marvellous. Your car.”
    â€œMarvellous, Sir .”
    â€œMarvellous, Sir.”
    Sir stood back and watched the luggage being put inside the bread-bin. Then he nodded at Auntie May, pointed to the dickie seat and watched Eddie climb in, Babs and Claire looking on nonchalantly from above.
    â€œYou have the address?” said Sir to Auntie May. “And Feathers has yours? Not too many letters, please; we have work to do. He should write regularly to his father only. No letters from the girls or from this village. I think that was the understanding? Why does the boy stammer?”
    â€œIt began years ago.”
    â€œNothing in the least to worry about now,” said Sir, cranking an iron handle in front of the bonnet, then flinging it over the car into the dickie, just missing Eddie’s head, and leaping behind the wheel to keep the engine alive. Without a toot or a wave or a word of farewell he reversed on the springy grass and flung the car back into the stony lane and went bounding between the low walls and out of sight; leaving a considerable silence.
    It was Babs who burst into tears.
    â€œNow then, this stammer,” said Sir, an hour or so later, “I suppose it’s never mentioned. That’s the current policy.”
    â€œIt—it—it was. At the sch-school.”
    â€œAh, well they were Welsh. The Welsh have an easy flow and cadence. They can’t understand those of us who haven’t. I, for example, am not musical. Are you?”
    â€œI d-don’t know.”
    â€œChapel? Chapel?”
    â€œI d-didn’t sing. If I

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