Outside the big bay window it was grey and horrible. Rain had been coming down steadily for days and visibility was reduced to almost nothing. What detail from outside could be detected was rendered hazy by the fogged up window pane, with the cold air on one side and the warm air of the lounge room on the inside.

Matilda drew meditatively on her pipe and blew out the smoke in the kind of way that is never described in books. It wasn’t blue and it didn’t emerge in shapes or rings or wreathes. It was a dirty, sooty substance which hung in the air like an untidy cloud. This also reduced visibility, for when Matilda smoked it produced a lot of smoke, and she had been smoking for hours.

She was reading. Reading and cursing the diabolical bloody weather, as her friend Rosemary used to call it. But Rosemary wasn’t in the lounge. Her armchair, next to the open fire, was empty. Even the Pomeranian which thought it was a mastiff refused to sit in Rosemary’s seat. He knew that just because she wasn’t in the room didn’t mean you couldn’t get in trouble, for something, for anything – a transgression of some kind – which she had told you about, or even which a reasonable person should have known was against the rules. Rosemary had been a lawyer, you see. And her rules were pretty simple, in a way. Doing anything which interfered with what she did and when she wanted to do it was out.

Rosemary liked to read and smoke and enjoy the breeze blowing sharply through the bay windows of an afternoon in the summertime. This was one of the reasons why she was friends with Matilda. Or perhaps that should be was friendly with Matilda. Or even chose to tolerate Matilda. The woman couldn’t smoke properly to save her life, but she liked a pipe and a read and she kept to herself and they couldn’t mix up their cardigans because Matilda was a small woman – such a small woman, in her woollen skirt and sensible shoes, clutching her binoculars and holding her stout walking stick; small perhaps, but redoubtable – and Rosemary was tall, with big feet and a green handbag full of secrets.

They kept out of each other’s way, I suppose, but they liked similar things and this meant it was difficult for Rosemary to find fault and that meant Matilda was happy, and when she was happy was content, and she expressed her contentment through quietness, which appealed to the taller woman more than anything. Rule number one was silence.

Quietness was a virtue. There wasn’t enough of it in the modern world, they always said. In fact Rosemary said this and Matilda agreed with her – with a nod and a smile – but that was what their conversations were like. Some of them were, anyway.

Today was different though, because Matilda was whistling, softly, to herself. This sort of thing was not usually tolerated, and the dog stood on the Chinese rug and looked at her strangely. He tilted his head to the side and seemed to implore her, with his mad beady little eyes, to stop: she could be here, just around the corner, coming, and she won’t be happy.

“Don’t worry Barnaby,” she said to the confused little animal. “You can have your dinner in here with me tonight.”

He seemed puzzled. Worse than puzzled. There was fear in those little eyes until his mistress returned with a bowl of gourmet dog food. Then his look changed and he began to wag his tail. It was as if, at that moment, he knew what had happened.

Published in: on December 10, 2014 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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