Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A child's best friend.


  1. 1/2

    "Olga," said Dauphin, in that way he had of speaking without speaking, which is to say, squeaking his wheel against the little diamonds of the window-panes. "Olga, I didn't much like the zoo."

    "Didn't you?" said Olga, absently. Olga was drawing a picture of a camel with her new wax crayons.

    "No," said Dauphin. "I did not, no. I did not like the zoo much at ALL."

    Olga was doing a tricky bit of the camel's hump, and so it was a minute or two before she replied.

    "Why not?"

    Dauphin didn't say anything, and Olga looked up.

    "Why didn't you like the zoo?"

    "Don't know," said Dauphin, but Olga could tell that he did know. Dauphin was always very dignified.

    Olga got up from the table by the fire and went over to the window. It was much colder by the window but Dauphin said he could think better there.

    Olga scratched the top of Dauphin's head. Mummy said she was growing fast, and it was definitely true, because Dauphin only came up to her sash, and he had used to come up to the top of her shoulders, when she first met him.

    Olga met Dauphin in the attic a long time ago. It was a very long time ago, because it was almost before Olga could remember. It must have been very strange, life without Dauphin. She supposed other little girls did not have a Dauphin- there could only, after all, be one Dauphin- but she couldn't see at all how people did anything without consulting Dauphin.

    Nanny said Dauphin was mangy and ought to be put out like a light but Mummy said Dauphin was important. When Olga grew up she was going to be a sensible grown-up like Mummy and not a ridiculous grown-up like Nanny, and she was going to smell like Mummy too and not like Nanny.

    Dauphin smelled not at all like people, and not even like attics. He had a whole different Dauphin smell all of his own, a little bit like Boxing Day and a little bit like burnt, and a little bit like the insides of old butter-churns.

    Olga knew what old butter-churns smelled like because there was one in the dairy that she was keeping secrets in.

    She had a bird's nest, and a picture of a film-star from the back of the Gazette, and a pair of white sandals that Mrs. Grey's baby had had before it died, and some secret knitting that Olga was making secretly for Daddy's birthday.

    Olga knelt down and put her arms round Dauphin's spindly neck. She was always very careful about Dauphin's neck. Once she had had a china swan from Granny Moffat which had had a beautiful china neck almost as long and elegant as Dauphin's, and it had fallen off a shelf and the neck had broken into bits. It was all hollow inside.

    Olga knew from the book of anatomy in the grown-up library downstairs that people weren't hollow, at least down to their bones, which she wasn't sure about. Their bones could very well be hollow, because she had not been able to finish the book before Nanny came in and made her try on frocks for fittings.

    The book also, so far as Olga knew, said nothing about Dauphins. She thought that Dauphins were probably not hollow, but it never did any harm to be extraspecially careful.

  2. 2/2

    "What's wrong, Dauphin?" said Olga, gently, into one of Dauphin's pricky ears.

    Dauphin squeaked his wheel against the glass, dolefully.

    "What's wrong?'

    "I thought- I thought perhaps you might like the kind of animals without wheels better," said Dauphin. "They all had lots of legs, and I've only got two."

    Olga said, "But you wouldn't be Dauphin if you had four legs."

    Dauphin said, "But you mightn't want a Dauphin. You might want a zebra, or an antelope, or a Fentiman's Hooper Roe. Or a Macedonian Qibok, or a Myrtillanian Quadruped, or a Mistremious Quaker. Or a Great Dane, or an arctic fox. They all have four legs, and I saw them all at the zoo."

    "I saw them too," said Olga. "But I didn't want them to come home."

    "Didn't you?" said Dauphin, and he lifted his mournful head, in a way that only Olga could see was a tiny bit hopeful.

    "Of course not," said Olga.

    "No?" said Dauphin.

    "No," said Olga, firmly, and Dauphin raised his damp nose and touched it to Olga's, and Olga hugged Dauphin as tight as she absolutely dared, and outside everything was being made white and new by the snow.

  3. Love the story. Perfect match for the drawing. Clever Girls.