(120) Village School by Read Miss

(120) Village School by Read Miss

Author:Read, Miss [Read, Miss]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction, Country life, Country Life - England, Fairacre (England: Imaginary Place), Fairacre (England : Imaginary Place)
ISBN: 9780618127023
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published: 1976-01-02T08:00:00+00:00

At seven o'clock the door was opened and a gratifyingly large crowd swarmed in. Capacious shopping bags of every shape and colour dangled from the women's arms. The first rush, as always, was for the children's clothes.

'Do nice for mv sister's youngest.'

'Ah, that's just right for our Edna for next summer! Always liked a bit of frilling on knickers for little girls, myself!'

'Hold up, Annie, and let's try this for size! Pull your stummick back, child! How's a body to tell, else?'

The clothes were churned over by busy hands, snatched from one to the other, admired, deprecated and subjected to close and searching scrutiny. Pennies, sixpences, shillings and half-crowns changed hands, and the pudding basins provided by the vicar's wife on each stall were soon filling with contributions to Fairacre Church Roof Fund.

Prominent in the mob of women jostling for position was Mrs Bryant, a tall, imposing gipsy, wearing a man's trilby hat squarely upon her coiled greasy plaits. Heavy gold earrings gleamed against her dusky cheeks and she carried a formidable ebony stick. Behind hovered the lesser fry of her family, daughters, young wives and a bevy of dark-eyed children who watched everything in solemn silence. Mrs Bryant was known to strike a hard bargain and when she approached the men's stall, where Miss Clare and I were struggling to find change for a pound note and sell waistcoats and socks at the same time, we girded ourselves for the fray.

With the end of her ebony stick Mrs Bryant lifted a pair of grey flannel trousers. She gazed at the dangling objects with contempt, and then said:

'Give you sixpence for these.'

'The price is marked on them, Mrs Bryant,' replied Miss Clare, without looking up from her counting.

'They's only rubbish! Not fit for nothing but dusters!' persisted Mrs Bryant.

'In that case I advise you not to buy them,' answered Miss Clare politely, handing change to a customer and not bothering to glance in the gipsy's direction.

'Shillun!' snapped Mrs Bryant. Several of the women had paused in their buying to watch with amusement and also with some admiration for Miss Clare's handling of the situation.

'What price are they?' asked one, looking aloft at the suspended garments. In one swift movement Miss Clare twitched them free, surveyed the ticket, and handed them over to the questioner, saying, 'Half a crown.' There were sly smiles all round at this neat manoeuvre. Mrs Bryant said, 'Some folks buys any old rags, I sees!' and strode off with a face like thunder.

Mr Roberts towered above the throng and his mighty laugh could be heard above all the hubbub. He was present in his triple role of school manager, churchwarden and donor of the raffle prize.

'How are you doing, Mr Willet?' I heard him shout cheerfully. Mr Willet was laboriously writing out the counterfoil of a raffle ticket, licking his pencil frequently, and, as it was an indelible one, gradually dyeing the edge of his ragged moustache a sinister purple. His tongue, by now an awe-inspiring sight, would have done credit to a prize chow.


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