Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Susan Goes Short Haired for a While

It was close to November, and the spell of warm weather, often known as Indian Summer, drew to an end. Suddenly. Susan and Roy had been talking on and on, but clouds drew up on the horizon. Big clouds.

"Jolly," said Susan. "We just needed a few drops for a little change. And of course it won't be cold at all!"

It was already colder. Sun was sinking below the clouds and ... well, it was not warm.

"Let us stop at the next town. We need to get you a haircut and a train ticket, and we may be far enough away to stop safely. At least small country towns are not among the most vigilant unless you have been described in the news as really dangerous."

"Not all that sure about that. Where would I be going, do you think?"

"Don't tell me where - I'll give you the money for anything between Holyhead and Glasgow, then you choose."

They came to a village. It was marked Wickhamford. There was a pub called Sandys Arms. Roy stopped the car outside. He told her not to be stingy on his behalf, he would pay. Zulu nation's honour. They went in, and the clouds were getting closer and the sky darker.

"What do you like for now? Hot, strong or both?"


Roy turned to the barman, a rather longfaced and ceremonial man with big red whiskers: "a hot toddy for the lady - use lemon - and a beer for me. A pint. Do you have lager, I am South African?"

"I can hear that, now you say so, and yes we do have lager." The barman turned to his presumably wife, both being in their forties or fifties: "Anne, do you mind making a toddy for a lass who's out travelling in cold weather?"

"Oh, not at all." She went off to the kitchen to get the kettle and was back with the toddy for Susan before Roy's lager was tapped. "Anything to eat?"

"Yes." Susan relied on the resources and generosity of Roy. "Some toast would just be lovely."

"Ham and cheese, half of each," Roy added. "And in plenty."

"Hear that?" said the barman to his wife. "Here are folks who know how to order properly."

"Toast will be ready in a minute or two, hope you do not mind, ma'am!"

"Oh, I'll be fine."

Roy asked the barman:

"Is there a railway station close to here?"

"Evesham is not far. And in case the young lady happens to be a certain Susan Pevensie we've been hearing about on the radio, there is a hairdresser and a shop for clothing there too, if you hurry up."

Ouch, so much for villagers not taking broadcasted descriptions about her seriously.

"You need not look scared, young lady. We are not giving you over to policemen or asylum. We think you did quite well to shoot arrows on policemen when they were - and totally illegally, mind you! - trying to force the girl to an appointment which would have meant an abortion."

"Well, have you heard anything about the girl?"

"No, not except for her description and that of a friend of yours, a shorthaired redhead. Neither have been caught so far."

"That is a relief."

She ate with gusto, and Roy ate too, though the beer was part of his meal.

"How much is it?"

"Four you ma'am and for whoever you are helping her, it is free. Isn't that right, Anne?"


Once in Evesham she got her hair short for some time, like bobbed. And she bought a new dress, in green. And a handbag. And the railway ticket for Midland Railway was not too expensive. She spent the evening in Birmingham and felt safe when hearing the description. She took a bed and breakfast lodging, and in the morning she was off to Holyhead and Ireland. I mean, not only had she formally converted, though her belief faltered after that, she was also against abortion much more firmly than some people she could mention in England ... On the train station in Birmingham she said to herself she would take a look at Roy Campbell's books, which he had given her. In the train it was first Essays Presented to Charles Williams, compiled by C. S. Lewis, that caught her eyes, and she started with On Fairy-Stories, by Tolkien. He had of course known her sister, and she had seen the Birmingham Oratory while walking to the station. She signed herself with the cross while passing.