Perfectly Pure and Good

Perfectly Pure and Good by Frances Fyfield Read Free Book Online

Book: Perfectly Pure and Good by Frances Fyfield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frances Fyfield
like these, they could have been the same childish age instead of he four years her senior. He wanted to pull her closer. The effort to restrain himself was almost too much: he could feel her breath, the babyish talcum powder smell of her and it made him want to faint. His fingers itched to feel the warm patch at the back of her neck.
    There was a sound from the road which separated the summer garden from the channels beyond. It was a tinkling parody of Big Ben chimes on the hour, Da dah, dah da, dah da, da dah, garish and eerie. The ice-cream van, calling to Joanna like the music of the spheres.
    Òh no!' she wailed. 'It's him! And I look so awful!'
    Edward clenched his fists. The door slammed, the room shuddered and everything in the doll's house fell over. Edward peered inside and took the ballerina figure and the small doll dressed like an artist with a smock and placed them with their arms around each other on the master bed of the biggest room upstairs. Then he threw a cloth across the whole construction as if he was silencing a parrot in a cage and took up a station behind the window, out of sight.
    The ice-cream van drove down the drive, where weeds had almost overtaken the remnants of gravel and the lawn, where a sheep grazed, somehow expanded into the grassy flower-beds. Mist was beginning to roll in from the sea, warm and wet, promising oblivion. He watched as the ice-cream van stopped below, still tinkling, shut his eyes, tried to imagine the sound of the distant waves, failed.
    Please don't run, Jo, please don't. He could not abide to witness her humiliation or watch her bitten nails pushing through the blond hair; could not bear to see her preen the way she never had for him. He clenched his fist. 'Why is it I never get what I want?' he murmured petulantly. 'Things will change, Dad, just you wait and see.'
    As the van drew to a halt, with its monstrous bells still ringing to the faithful, a figure emerged from the front door of the house with a joyful scream. Edward closed his eyes again in the instant he recognized that high-pitched shrieking and the jumble of excited words which followed so harsh on his ears. He looked, without amusement, as a plump figure banged on the side of the van, yelling, 'Hallo, hallo oh, goodbye, darling thing, are you being good today?'
    The van stopped, lurched forwards a few yards, part of an act. The bright little figure ran after it, whooping with laughter. Edward relaxed. At least this little fool wasn't Joanna. Only his own darling mother, sweetly dotty and harmlessly senile. He looked down at her with more indifference than contempt. As soon as he could manage it, she was going to live in a zoo. If not a zoo, at least behind bars, and a grave would be best of all.
    Joanna, money, this house to pull down and this landscape to alter. If only. He wanted never to work, and to go on as he had so far, in the careful cultivation of an image of himself as a cunning player of games and a deeply interesting, deeply unpleasant young man. Oh, yes, and maybe a better fisherman than his father. Nothing else mattered.
    Everyone mattered too much.
    `Nice evening in store, Doctor?'
    `No,' said Julian Pardoe, writing the prescription as he spoke. Ì very much doubt it.'
    `Why's that, then? Lovely big house, yours. So I'm told. People says.'
    Àh, the word of authority. People says. Lovely house. You should try living in it. You should try coping with leaks and delinquents of all ages. You should try . . .' He stopped, not embarrassed, but ashamed for listening to his own voice rising into a petulant yell. Miss Gloomer, obdurate spinster, eighty years old, chronically and courageously ill, sat across the desk in his surgery, knowing her manners, while he forgot his. Her face was a map of pain, patience and fortitude.
    She managed to sit in her chair without trembling only because of the stick with the ornamental duck's head she clasped with both hands pressed into the top while the ferrule was

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