Shutting the back door behind her, Evadne bent down to check Scrabble’s paws for any mud and laughed at the hopeful expression in his puppy-dog eyes.
“It’s not dinner time yet and you know it! You’ll get it at five, just as you’ve always done. Nothing’s changed for thirteen and a half years and it’s not going to change now!"
Scrabble shot her what could only be described as a reproachful look and then mooched off into the kitchen, his tail between his legs. Chuckling to herself, Evadne hung up his lead, took off her walking boots and then checked her watch. It was quarter to three. Plenty of time to go through some more photographs before it was time for tea.
Making her way through the kitchen, pausing a moment to have a few words with Guilia and her son Paulo, who now came in to help her two or three times a week, she hung her coat up in the hallway and then headed back out onto the terrace. Scrabble was already there, sitting beside her chair, his tail wagging to let her know that she had been forgiven. Crouching down, she scratched his ears.
“You’re a good old boy, really, aren’t you? I’m so glad we got you all those years ago."
Scrabble wagged his tail harder, clearly returning the sentiment, and Evadne scratched his ears once more, stood up and then lowered herself into her seat.
“Right then,” she said, picking up the album she had placed ready on the table, “let’s see what this year has in store for us, shall we?
The spring of 1957 had melded into summer with no real alarums and scarums to speak of – most definitely a record in Watson family terms.
Henry’s second birthday came and went, and as the weeks passed he began to blossom into a proper little boy in front of his parents’ eyes, becoming very independent and insisting on shouting everything at the top of his voice. Not long after Easter, Milly finally stopped crying her way through each and every night and instead spent her time rolling from front to back - a newly acquired skill - her eyes bright and alert as she took in her surroundings, and always ready with a smile and a giggle for her two-year-old brother, who was the one person in the family who could really make her laugh. The pair of them were changing so much, in fact, that Evadne was heard to bemoan more than once that she must be getting old, as her babies were growing up so fast.
Summer term at the two schools saw all three elder children kept busy, both in terms of exams and play. Much to his great relief, Ned managed to get through all his third year exams, even his French - languages not being his strong point - and, to his great delight, was made captain of Harrow’s U15 cricket XI, leading his team on an unbeaten run. At the Chalet School, meanwhile, celebrations commenced for the Silver Jubilee and there was added excitement when, in the middle of a fierce storm, a lightening bolt hit one of the cricket pitches, causing a large hole that became a talking point for many weeks to come.
Before anyone knew where the time had gone, the end of June was upon them, bringing with it Edgar’s fortieth birthday. He had not wanted any fuss to be made, so there was no big party, but with Janice Bown’s offer to have the two youngest Watsons for the night, he and Evadne were able to spend a precious evening together, just the two of them, for the first time since Milly had been born. Evadne even tried to bake a cake, without any help from Guilia, and though the results were somewhat interesting, her husband declared that the fact she had even tried just made him love her all the more.
A week later saw June turn into July, the schools break up for the summer holidays, and the entire Watson family head to England, or the Hampshire village of Kilmeston, to be exact, to spend a month with Elsie, Paul and their clan.
They set off early the day after Thea and Marcia finished school, leaving Scrabble to be spoilt by Anton, stayed the night in their London house, and then drove down to Kilmeston the following day, arriving at the Rodwells' house mid-afternoon. Ned had been collected from Harrow by Elsie a few days previously, when she had gone to pick up Tom, and he was watching from the dining room window when Edgar’s big old car drew up in the driveway of the whitewashed, red-roofed cottage, the gears grinding as it slowed to a halt. Laughing to himself as he saw who was driving, he made his way through to the hallway and opened the front door, just as his father emerged from the front passenger seat, his face a little ashen.
“You okay, Dad?”
“I am now we’re on terra firma!” he replied, opening the back door and reaching in to let Henry out of his seat. “It was rather an…er…eventful journey, shall we say!”
“It was scary!” Thea hissed to her brother in a stage whisper, pulling a face as she and Marcia disembarked and greeted him with a hug.
Climbing out of the driver’s seat, Evadne shot them all an indignant look. "Well it would have been alright if all those people had quit honking their horns and let me sort myself out!”
“It was those people’s right of way!” her husband retorted.
Evvy muttered something inaudible to anyone more than a foot away from her and stalked around to the rear of the car to open the boot. Deciding wisely not to bother asking her what she had just said, realising it was unlikely to be anything that should be repeated in present company, Edgar took Henry’s hand and helped the him down from the car. The little boy looked around in wonder at the strange surroundings, as if wondering where on earth he was. Spotting Ned with his sisters, he was about to run over to greet him, when he suddenly stopped and grabbed his father’s trousers. A whole group of strangers had appeared at the doorway, including a man in a funny chair with wheels. Henry turned and hid his face against his father’s leg.
Edgar chuckled and stooped to pick him up. “You feeling shy, little man?”
As his elder sisters joyously greeted their friends and brevet-aunt and uncle, Henry kept his fair, curly head buried firmly in Edgar’s shoulder. Laughing, Elsie came towards them.
“Hi there, Henry! You won’t remember me but I’m your Auntie Elsie.”
Henry turned his head slightly, and then quickly whipped it back again as he saw his brevet-aunt looking at him. Edgar laughed and bent to greet her with a kiss on the cheek.
“Just ignore him – he’ll snap out of it in a few minutes. It’s this little ritual we have to go through every time someone new appears on the scene. It never lasts long, does it, trouble?”
Henry moved slightly, catching Edgar’s left hand with one of his legs and causing his father to wince. Noticing for the first time that his hand was bandaged up, Elsie frowned. “What have you done to yourself?”
“Caught a nail in my palm. I was helping Anton to set up the tank for his new lizards and I caught it on a crate. It’s almost healed now, but it’s still too painful to do things like drive, unfortunately – the gear stick’s a bit more than I can handle – hence why old Sterling Moss back there had to chauffeur us from the airport.
Evadne’s head appeared around the back of the car as she glared at her husband, and Elsie laughed. “Surely she’s a bit better by now?”
“Oh she is – in Geneva anyway. As long as there aren’t too many hairpin bends. She’s only knocked the gatepost twice in the last year or so, which isn’t bad at all! Unfortunately it’s been a while since she last drove in England and she kept forgetting to use the left hand side of the road. Not to mention thinking the horn was the indicator. Still, we just about made it here alive!”
At this, Evadne stepped out from behind the car. “Well I like that! I can actually hear you, you know! Next time I’ll just leave you behind and it will serve you right, mister!” Chuckling to himself, Edgar shook his head and turned to greet Paul, and forgetting her grievances, Evadne came forward and enveloped her old friend in a hug. “Oh Elsie, it’s so good to see you!” she said, squeezing that lady tight. “I can’t believe it’s been so long!”
Elsie returned her hug with an affectionate one of her own. “Almost eighteen months, to be exact. So much for our husband’s declaration that we’d still see enough of each other when you all moved away!”
“I think that may be our fault, what with me getting pregnant and then us being in France most of last summer.”
“I don’t think we’ve been much better. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it out last November. The infection in Paul’s stump just wouldn’t heal and the doc didn’t think he should travel. And then he’s been so busy since, what with the office opening and everything, we haven’t had time to go anywhere. I can’t believe we’ve not even met Milly yet.”
“Well then come and meet her now!” Evadne took hold of Elsie’s arm, towing her over to the back door of the car, and then reached inside. A moment later she straightened up, Milly in her arms, blinking at the bright light from the afternoon sun. “She’s not long been awake, so she’s a little drowsy still.” Evadne dropped a kiss on the side of her daughter’s head, as she straightened the little girl’s pretty yellow dress, and then turned her attention to their host. “See here, sweetie, this is your Aunt Elsie! Are you gonna say hello?”
“Aren’t you precious?” Elsie stooped, taking Milly’s hand as she cooed at her. The next second she straightened up as a pungent smell reached her nostrils. “I think someone needs her nappy changed! Or is that your way of saying hello?”
Evadne laughed. “Only to people she really likes!” She gave her daughter another kiss. “Edgar, can we start getting unpacked? Milly needs seeing to and I don’t know where the changing bag’s buried.”
Edgar turned from his conversation with Paul and waved an acknowledgement, then began marshalling the troops to remove everything from the boot. Before long they had everything out on the driveway and ready to go.
“Right, chief, where’s all this going?”
Elsie turned to Edgar with a grin. “You and Evvy are in mine and Paul’s old room, Thea and Marcia are next door in the spare room and I’ve put Henry’s cot in the box room, if that’s okay? There’s another one in your dressing room for Milly. Ned’s in with Tom.”
“I don’t see why I have to share when Lily doesn’t,” Tom grumbled, as he dragged one of the heavy suitcases towards the front door.
“Well you can go in with Lily if you like and let Ned have a room to himself?” his mother retorted.
“Then stop whinging and take those in, please. And when you’re done you can get on with your own unpacking. You and Ned have been here three days and your trunks are still full. You’re living in a pit.”
Evadne grinned. “Ned lives in a pit all on his own so I can’t imagine what they’re like together!”
“I don’t live in a pit, I live in organised chaos!” Ned retorted, as he walked past with another case. He wrinkled his nose as he got too close to Milly. “That one really stinks!”
“Speaking of which, where’s that bag, Edgar? I need to change her before I can unpack.”
“I’ll change her, if you like?”
Evadne turned back to Elsie. “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely! I’m pretty sure I can remember what to do, and it’ll give us a change to get acquainted, won’t it, Milly?”
“Well in that case, I won’t say no!”
Elsie took the little girl from Evadne, picked up the bag that Edgar had put beside them, and then turned to go into the house. “Come on then, little one, let’s go and sort you out. We’ll be in the kitchen when you’re all done. Then we can start thinking about tea.”
“You all done?”
“Well, I am and Thea is. Paul and Edgar are in the study doing heavens only knows what – getting out of unpacking if you ask me – and Marcia’s still at it as she was looking after Henry while Thea finished and then they swapped over. Goodness knows what the boys are doing. How long does it take to empty a trunk?”
Elsie laughed. "I’m not so sure there’s much trunk emptying going on! I heard Tom yell something about cricket cards not long ago, so I suppose they’ve got their albums out.” Pushing her chair back, she got to her feet. “I hope you don’t mind, but I found Milly’s food in the bag and opened it. If you take her, I can heat it up if you like?”
“Oh thanks, Elsie, you’re an absolute poppet! We don’t mind a bit, do we, Milly?” Evadne held her hands out for her daughter and Elsie passed her over. “Have you had fun with Aunt Elsie, sugar-pie? What do you have there?” she asked, noticing the doll clutched tightly in Milly’s fists.
“It’s an old one of Lily’s. She brought it down with her a few minutes ago and said that she wanted Milly to have it.”
“Is she sure?”
“Perfectly. She was never that fond of it – you know how funny children can be about toys. At least we know it’s going to a good home. Milly certainly seems to like it, anyway.” Hearing shrieks from outside, Elsie turned to look out of the window at the back garden, where Thea and Lily were playing with Henry on the lawn. “He’s grown so much, hasn’t he? How can we have missed it all? He’s a proper little boy now!”
“Well he is almost two and four months!”
“Oh, you know what I mean!”
Evadne grinned. “I know. It kinda crept up on us too. I suddenly noticed one day that he wasn’t toddling anymore – it was such a shock!”
“I remember that with our two. And there’s no mistaking he’s yours with those fair curly locks. What a head of hair!”
“Marcia has them too, remember, and she’s not mine.”
“True, but hers are dark blonde and more of a mop. Henry's so fair and he has proper ringlets, and they are definitely yours!”
“Touché!” Evadne laughed. “If you ask me, he looks far more like Edgar, to be honest.”
“You think so?”
“I do. He has the same lips and eyes, even though his are blue-grey and Edgar’s are green. And Doc Schreiber says he’s already tall for his age, and that’s definitely his father not me!”
Elsie grinned. “True.” Turning from the window, she gently heated Milly’s food on the stove and smiled at the baby girl in her mother's lap. “This little one, on the other hand, is your absolute image!”
“Everyone keeps saying that. I don’t see it, myself.”
“It’s true! She looks just like you. And she’s so wee!”
“You don’t need to tell me! To begin with I was worried I’d break her – she seems so delicate, especially as Henry was such a little Michelin Man! The doc says she’s growing at a normal rate though. She’s just petite, that’s all. She’s our dainty little doll, aren’t you darling? Yes you are!”
Milly stared blankly up at her mother and Elsie laughed. “You know she’s thinking you’re quite mad, don’t you? Mind you, she wouldn’t be far wrong!”
“I’ve been here one hour and already you’ve insulted me!” came the huffy reply. “I’ve not missed you, Elsie Rodwell!” Elsie simply laughed again and Evadne jigged Milly on her knee. “Don’t you listen to Aunt Elsie, Milly-Moo. She’s the one who’s mad, not Mommy.” Then, looking up at Elsie again, “You know it’s amazing how different she is from Henry. He was so happy and smiley, even as a babe, whereas Milly’s so much more clingy and serious. I know she’s not screaming all night now but she still cries if I’m out of sight for too long.”
“She seems quite smiley to me.”
“Oh she’s smiley alright, just not all the time like her brother. In fact the only person who can really make her giggle is Henry. It’s so cute to see, he adores her so!”
Spooning Milly’s food into a bowl, Elsie checked the temperature before handing it over to her friend. “You make a good mother, you know.”
“Well thanks a bunch! What did you expect me to be?”
“I didn’t mean it that way, don’t get huffy,” Elsie retorted, as she put the kettle on to boil. “I simply meant what I said. It suits you. I’ve not really seen you with either these two, remember? Not since Paul’s accident anyway, and to be honest I wasn’t really concentrating on your parenting skills then.”
Evadne looked up and gave her friend a warm smile. “No, I know. He seems so much better though?”
“Oh he is, so much so. It’s just…” Elsie's voice trailed off.
“I think he’s pinning too much on this new leg, that’s all.”
Evadne frowned. “Edgar mentioned you were worried about that.”
Heaving a sigh, Elsie pulled out her chair and sat down again. “I’m rather hoping that Edgar can get through to him, to tell you the truth. He won’t listen to me at all. He seems to think that it’s going to be a case of strap it on and off you go. I just don’t think he wants to admit to himself how hard the road ahead’s going to be and I’m so worried he’ll be disappointed and get frustrated. And if that happens then he’ll shut down again, I know he will. It took me so long to get him back properly, Evvy. I don’t want to lose him again - not any part of him.”
Placing her daughter’s spoon back in the bowl, Evadne reached out to clasp Elsie’s arm. “I’m sure it’ll be all right, Elsie, you’ll see.” Elsie smiled and Evvy squeezed her arm. “Edgar’ll get through to him.”
“Edgar will get through to who?”
The two women jumped at the sound of Paul’s voice.
“Ned,” Evadne replied quickly, hoping her face didn’t give her away, “if he doesn’t sort out his trunk once and for all!”
Paul gave the pair of them a funny look, as he wheeled himself into the room. “It’s only a trunk, ladies. He’s got all summer to unpack it.”
Relieved that he had clearly not heard their conversation, Elsie relaxed and gave him a look of mock-despair. “You would say that! We’ve been married thirteen years and you’ve yet to find the laundry basket!”
Paul feigned a look of surprise. “You mean the laundry doesn’t walk there itself?”
“Oh…ugh, you!” Getting to her feet, Elsie picked up the tray containing a large chocolate cake and a malt loaf, and thrust it at him. “Make yourself useful and take that outside! Evvy, come on, bring all that too. You can finish feeding Milly in the open air. Where’s Edgar, by the way?”
“Just checking over the last of the figures from the office,” Paul replied over his shoulder, as he carefully lowered himself down the ramp leading from the back door to the patio, the tray resting on his lap. “He’ll be through in a moment.”
Evadne rose from the table, heaving Milly into her arms and collecting up her bowl and spoon, and Elsie waited only for the kettle to finish boiling, before filling the teapot, grabbing a jug of juice and following them outside. Once they were settled at large wooden table on patio, underneath a pergola covered in climbing roses, Elsie began cutting the cake while Paul called out to Thea, Lily and Henry to come and get their tea.
“You hold that tight, Henry, or you’ll be sitting in your highchair!” Evadne warned, as she handed her son a small slice of chocolate cake on a melamine plate. “Here’s his juice, Thea. Keep an eye on him, won’t you?”
With his sister walking beside him, Henry made his way across the grass, clutching the plate very tightly in both hands, intense concentration on his young face.
Paul laughed as he watched him go. “You’ve got him well trained, I must say!”
“Don’t you believe it! He’s being exceptionally well-behaved. Generally that would have been either down his front, on the grass or both by now. He’s the most accident-prone child I’ve ever come across! It’s twice as bad now he’s getting older – he moves so fast these days! It’s all we can do to keep him away from the lake. We've hired some men to come in whilst we’re away and build a fence along the shore. At least that will keep Henry on dry land until he’s old enough to open the gate!”
“He’s still a real water baby then?” Elsie asked.
“He’s positively obsessed! Ned bought him a new paddling pool for his birthday and if he had his way he’d be in there all day. You should see the tantrums when we try and take him out!”
“Perhaps he was a fish in a previous life?
“Maybe. Edgar’s setting his sights on him being an Olympic swimmer when he grows up!” Evadne chuckled. “Who knows? Perhaps he will be. Whatever he ends up doing, I’ll bet my hat it will be to do with water in some way.”
Taking a huge bite out of his slice of malt-loaf, Paul heaved a satisfied sigh and leant back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. “So come on then, Evvy, how’s life treating you in Geneva? I’ve only had your husband’s version of things so far. I need to make sure yours tallies up!”
Evadne grinned back at him. “Why, don’t you trust him?”
“I just know that he’d say that everything was wonderful even if it wasn’t.”
“Well everything’s wonderful, thanks.” Evadne paused for a moment and frowned. “You know, I could swear we’ve not stopped for a moment these last few months, but when I try and think what we’ve been up to, I can’t recall a thing! Why does that always happen?”
Paul chuckled. “One of the laws of sod, I believe! But you still enjoy living out there?”
“So much! It feels completely and utterly like home these days. I think we all feel the same. The lifestyle’s just marvellous, the pace is nice and relaxed and we’re near the girls’ school so we can get to all their plays and shows and things. The only downside is that we don’t get to see Ned as often as we’d like, but he’s only three more years at Harrow and then he’ll be out in the big wide world.” A horrified look crossed her face as she spoke. “Goodness, that makes me feel old!”
“You and me both! I remember him being born!”
“But you are old, my love,” Elsie put in, with an air of complete innocence, as her husband took another large bite of his cake. “What else do you think turning forty is?” Then, before Paul could swallow his mouthful, she turned back to Evvy. “Is Edgar still enjoying his job?”
“He loves it. Well, except for the long hours sometimes, but he’d rather be working out in Geneva than stuck in some office in Whitehall, that’s for sure.”
“I realise I should probably know this, but what exactly is his job again?” Paul asked, through his mouthful of malt loaf.
“Don’t ask her, she hasn’t a clue!”
The three of them looked round to see Edgar strolling across the patio, a wide grin on his face as he winked at his wife. Evadne puffed up with indignation.
“I do so!”
Still grinning, Edgar took a seat and nodded his thanks to Elsie as she passed him over a slice of cake. “Go on then, what do I do?”
“You do…farming and…and other things!”
Edgar’s deep chuckle rang out as he shook his head in mock despair. Before Evadne could think of a sufficient retort, however, a cross little voice rang out from somewhere above them.
“Thea, what have you done to my clock?”
Glancing up, they saw Marcia hanging from an upstairs window, her pretty, pink travel clock in her hand and an irate expression on her face.
From her seat in the middle of the lawn, Thea put down her glass of juice and looked at her sister as if that young lady was mad. “I haven’t done anything to your clock!"
“Well why has it stopped ticking then?”
“How should I know?”
“You unpacked it!”
“So?” came the incredulous reply. “Just ‘cause I unpacked it, it doesn’t mean it’s my fault! Have you actually wound it?”
“Durr, of course I have!”
Seeing Thea’s hackles starting to rise, Edgar decided to intervene. “Marcia, come down if you want to talk, stop yelling out of windows.”
“But my clock doesn’t work!”
“Well if you bring it down here then we can have a look at it, can’t we?”
However, Marcia wasn’t listening. “It was working okay this morning,” she grumbled, shaking it hard as she spoke. “Stupid, useless thing.”
The next moment, her arm caught the edge of the windowsill, causing the clock to fly out of her hand. For a split second there was silence, as it arced gracefully through the air, and then it crashed onto the patio, just below the window, sending shards of glass, springs and other inner workings flying off in all directions.
“Oh for heavens sake!” Furious, Edgar pushed back his chair and got to his feet, as a guilty-looking Marcia stared down at her smashed possession with wide eyes. “Get down here now and clean up this mess before someone does themselves an injury.”
“Well I don’t think that’s fixed it!” Evadne quipped to her hosts, earning herself a black look from her husband in the process. “I suppose that means we’re going clock shopping tomorrow.”
She flashed a grin at Paul and Elsie, who were trying their hardest not to laugh, and then glanced down at her daughter, only to find that young lady had been using her fingers to shovel orange paste from her bowl to somewhere in the vicinity of her mouth and was now covered in food.
“Look at you, Miss Moo! Did you enjoy that?”
Milly looked up at the sound of her voice, gave happy gurgle and lifted a hand, placing it squarely on her mother’s chest and leaving a perfect orange handprint on Evadne’s pale blue dress.
Evadne grimaced. “Thank you for that, madam. Just what I wanted.”
Gathering the last of the food onto a spoon, she fed it to her daughter and then wiped the little girl’s hands and face with her napkin.
Elsie smiled as she watched on. “Good thing orange and blue are in vogue this summer – you’ll fit right in”
“And very fetching I look, I’m sure! Milly, no!” Evadne reached out to snatch the bowl out of Milly’s grasp, but not before her daughter had managed to put her hand in the tiny amount of paste that was left and then wipe it in her fair, wispy hair. “Right, that’s it. Come on you, let’s go and get both of us cleaned up.” Getting to her feet, she hitched the little girl up in her arms, earning her dress another sticky palm print as she did so. “Sorry about all this. We’ve not even been here a couple of hours and we’ve already caused chaos!”
“Don’t mention it,” Paul replied airily, a deadpan expression on his face. “We wouldn’t expect anything less!”
Evadne grinned back at him over her shoulder, just as Marcia appeared, broom in hand, followed by a very stern-looking Edgar. “Never a truer word spoken in jest, Paul Rodwell!”
“Who said I was joking?”
She waved a hand, not deigning to look back as she disappeared through the kitchen door, and Paul chuckled to himself, as he popped the last bit of his malt loaf in his mouth and brushed the crumbs from his front. From the corner of his eye, he caught Elsie watching him and reached out to squeeze her forearm.
“Marvellous cake there, I must say.”
“Miss Webber made it,” Elsie replied, referring to a well-known elderly denizen of the local W.I. “She said she thought you might like it – apparently you told her at your birthday that malt loaf is your favourite.”
“Gosh, so I did! I can’t believe she remembered that!”
“Well if you will try and charm all the ladies!” Her eyes searched his face, and she gave him a smile full of affection. “How are you feeling?”
“Never better, my love. Two days to go and counting!”
“Uncle Paul!” Elsie had barely started her sentence when Thea came haring up the long, thin garden, a tennis ball clutched in her hand. “Uncle Paul, have you got a bat we can use to play french cricket?”
Paul turned to his brevet-niece with a grin. “I think I can rustle one up from somewhere, In fact, why don’t we all play?” Wheeling his chair back from the table, Paul looked up and cupped his hands to his mouth. “Ned! Tom!”
Tom’s head appeared at an upstairs corner window. “What?”
“Come on down and play french cricket.”
His son turned back into the room, obviously discussing this idea with Ned. Then he reappeared again at the window. “Coming! Want me to bring my pads?”
“Yes, that’s not a bad idea. Where’s your cricket bat?”
“In the shed next to yours,” came the yelled reply, as Tom disappeared again.
“Why can Tom shout out of windows but I can’t?” Marcia grumbled, as Paul steered around her and headed towards the shed.
Edgar shot his daughter a stern look from his vantage point near the back door. “Do you really want to be drawing attention to yourself just now, young lady?” Ignoring the muttering she was making under her breath, he studied the ground around him and bent to pick up a small spring. “Are you almost finished?”
“Well hurry up, then. Look, there’s a piece of glass over by the tomato plants.”
“Aha! Here it is!” A loud clattering sounded from the shed, as something was knocked over, and a moment later, a somewhat-dusty Paul emerged, his old school cricket bat clutched in his hands. “I don’t believe this has been moved for many a moon – about time it had an outing! Here you are, Thea. You take it off down the garden while I round up the troops. Ah, never mind, here they are,” as Tom and Ned appeared through the open patio doors, the younger boy with his pads tucked under one arm.
With a word of thanks, Thea grabbed the bat and ran off down the garden, followed by the two boys, to where Lily was chasing Henry round in circles, the little boy shrieking his head off every time he was caught. Paul turned back to the house with a grin.
“You coming to play, Edgar?”
“Yes, why not. If you can play one-legged, I don’t see any reason why I can’t play one-handed!”
“Ah, but you forget, I have my speedy wheels.”
“Please can I play too?” a small voice interjected.
“Are you finished clearing up?” Marcia nodded and Edgar quickly swept his eyes around the patio to check. “Then yes, you can play as long as you don’t break anything else.”
“Wasn’t going to,” came the sulky reply, a sullen look clouding her pretty face, and she stropped into the house, still clutching the dustpan.
“Make sure you wrap that in newspaper before you throw it away!” her father called after her. “I’ve put some out on the table.”
“Dad, come on!" Ned yelled from across the lawn. "We need your help. Lily can’t get the pads to stay on.”
“Alright, alright. Hold your horses, I'm coming!”
Leaving Marcia to her own devices, ignoring the questionable wisdom of doing just that, Edgar headed off down the garden, his long, loping stride carrying him quickly across the grass. For once fortune favoured him, however, and having done as she was told, Marcia came charging out of the back door to join in the fun.
Paul grinned to himself as he watched his friend bend down and try and help Lily attach the far-too-large cricket pads to her short thin legs. Then, turning his chair, he wheeled himself back to the table and his wife.
“You coming to play, Mrs. Rodwell?”
Elsie stared at him for a moment, a mix of affection and concern showing in her violet eyes. Then her face broke into a wide smile. “Absolutely!” She bent to kiss him softly on the cheek, and then taking hold of the handles at the back of the chair, she turned him and began to push the chair across the grass with a shout of “Ahoy there! Wait for us!”