Tabitha Barclay, 5

“Geef me een drankje.”

“Water?”

“Thee.”

He stood up from their table, took a few paces down the aisle but turned round and called:

“Heb je nog Engels munten?”

The lady, sat opposite to Lore, began rummaging through her purse. “Shit! Alleen euro.”

Lore drew a twenty pound note from her jeans pocket. “Tea, for three,” and she held up three fingers.

“Thanks, I’m Marika,” said the lady, “And my boyfriend, Jos.”

“Yes, thanks,” said Jos. “You want me to buy you something else–a sandwich?”

“I’m Lore. Yes, please. Uh, anything but egg.”

Jos wandered off to the dining car. Marika, who Lore had noted was annoyingly tall, sat back and smiled.

“That is one cool jacket.”

Lore smiled back. She looked out of the Eurostar’s window, then across at Marika. “Very soft–inside, and warm. It’s antique.”

“Antique?” puzzled Marika.

“Old.” She asked: “Where are you going?”

“Home to Amsterdam. I’m a student, in London.”

“Oh, right. Which university?”

They chatted away through the Kent countryside and the channel tunnel. Lore confessed that there wasn’t a boyfriend waiting for her in Paris or a cousin in Geneva, but that she was travelling across Europe alone. When Jos said that he and Marika were studying literature, she flashed her kindle, “I’m reading The Collected Katherine Mansfield–one of my greatest discoveries, listen to this, by Dorothy Wordsworth about William, quoted in her journal–she’s a veritable literary reference:

William is very well,

And gravely blithe–you know his way–

Talking with woodruff and harebell

And idling all the summer day

As he can well afford to do.

For who

Is more Divinely Entitled to?

He rises and breakfasts sharp at seven,

Then pastes some fern-fronds in his book,

Until his milk comes at eleven

With two fresh scones baked by the cook.

And then he paces in the sun

Until we dine at half past one.

“God and the cook are very good,”

Laughs William, relishing his food.

(Sometimes the tears rush to my eyes:

How kind he is, and oh, how wise!)

After, he sits and reads to me

Until at four we take our tea.

My dear, you would hardly believe

That William could so sigh and grieve

Over a simple, childish tale

How ‘Mary trod upon the Snail,’

Or ‘Little Ernie lost his Pail.’

And then perhaps a good half-mile

He walks to get an appetite

For supper, which we take at night

In the substantial country style.

By nine he’s in bed and fast asleep,

Not snoring, dear, but very deep,

Oh, very deep asleep indeed…

“Isn’t that just lovely?” Lore continued, “Her early death, knowledge of her impending silence, all played out in her letters and journal: it is unfathomably sad–endlessly sad.”

Marika lent across and clasped Lore’s hand.

“We’re stopping overnight in Brussels, first, before going home, tomorrow morning we fly in a balloon. Why don’t you come too?”

Lore checked Jos’s demeanour but couldn’t read his thoughts. “Yes. I’d love to!”

lore-barcly

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