NEXT morning Lore returned to the boathouse. She opened the crocodile skin suitcase again, revealing more of the peach-coloured tissue paper. She placed this to one side and found… leather? It felt cracked and hard, like the soil of their vegetable garden at the height of summer, and, as she fingered the rough texture, her thumb felt its inside, a lining of soft sheepskin. Something glinted in sunbeams, a badge–gold wings with a heart of letters, ATA–sewn over the left breast. An irresistible desire to possess Tabitha’s flying jacket seized hold of her, urgently, she snatched it up and pulled it on, fastening the zipper tight under her chin. Moments later Lore’s glassy stare refocused upon the descending motes which came to rest between Dex’s ears; the cat returned her look, his eyes closing slowly.
At the bottom of the suitcase lay a dark pink, marbled folio. As she opened the folio two photographs slid out. “Which one are you, Tabitha?”
The marbled folio was Tabitha’s 1932 diary. Pasted upon its brown flyleaf was a cutting, she read the following:
“Certain people, of whom I am one, thrive in an atmosphere of uncertainty. It is not that we have the gambler’s spirit, that we challenge chance for the sake of the game. We are not so dashing. If we take risks, we take them because we are lazy. We delegate our responsibilities to fate. In any situation, the more you are obliged to leave to chance, the less you are obliged to do yourself. Being for the most part inefficient, incapable of foresight, and rather irresponsible, we like best those situations in which a great deal has to be left to chance.”
† News From Tartary By Peter Fleming