We have a new chapter of Rum Cove everyday until the conclusion 7th June

The children get a surprise


Hastings – 1844 

‘I’m still not convinced,’ I said as the carriage juddered down the track towards home.

‘How can you not be convinced?’ Josef asked, giving the ball of fur in his arms ear scratches that made its tail swing like a flag in the wind. ‘Isn’t she the cutest little puppy?’

As if it understood the puppy looked at me with big wet eyes. It had floppy ears, shaggy white fur with brown spots, and a high-pitched whine when it wanted attention. ‘It’s a dog.’

‘A sweet little dog, the children will love her.’ He scratched the dog’s neck. ‘They will, won’t they?’

The dog stuck out a lolling, wet tongue in what I supposed was a dog smile. It seemed surprisingly unconcerned that it was in a confined space with two predators, unless it thought its sweetness would protect it.

‘I tell you, you’re training it.’ I raised my hands. ‘Nothing to do with me.’

‘Don’t listen to the mean lady, she’ll love you to bits in the end, she always does.’

I stared at him.

‘She knows it’s true,’ he whispered.

‘You’re talking to a dog, it has no idea what you’re saying.’

It barked at me, it was more of a squeak.

‘Why don’t you like dogs?’ he asked.

‘I was a thief, people with money like guard dogs to protect their money.’

‘You’re not going to be a guard dog, you’re going to be the children’s little friend, aren’t you?’

The dog barked and squirmed. I shook my head and carriage stopped outside the house. The children were peeking through the windows near the front door as if they knew something special was on its way.

In the hallway Josef put the puppy down and it toddled about sniffing things. There was white hair all down his front, I brushed at it but it was unmoveable.

‘Puppy!’ Edward squealed and grabbed the puppy in a hug that seemed risky until the puppy licked his face and slobbered on him.

Mary, Merry, and Millie hurried in and dropped to the floor to pat it.

‘We’ll call her Sir Ruffington and take her on lots and lots of adventures,’ Mary said, giving the dog scratches.

The puppy basked in the attention, licking them and begging for belly scratches.

‘Why sir?’ Millie asked. ‘Why not lady?’

‘Knights are always sir and they can be lady knights,’ Mary said. ‘Daddy told us a story about a lady knight and she was a sir.’

Millie thought about this and seemed to decide that she wasn’t in the mood for one of Mary’s long, convoluted stories when there was a puppy to pet.

I’d been so intent on watching them to make sure the dog didn’t bite I hadn’t noticed Bran leaning against the doorway to the sitting room with his arms crossed. His smile was content as if life couldn’t get any better.

It was just me who wasn’t convinced by the dog then.

Veronica peeked around the doorway to the library, her hair was loose and she had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

‘Come pet puppy, Ronni,’ Edward shouted. ‘Puppy likes pets.’

‘I’m alright, Edward,’ she said.

‘It’s your dog too, Veronica,’ Josef said. ‘She’s for all our children, including you.’

Veronica considered all of us as she was expecting a trick.

‘Come on, Ronni!’ Mary said, giggling. ‘Sir Ruffington is so sweet you got to pet her.’

Veronica slid out of the library and got down on the floor. Sir Ruffington climbed on to her lap, licked her face and looked at her expectantly. She stroked his head and smiled.

The children cheered.

‘Sees?’ Edward asked. ‘Bestest dog ever, ever!’

‘Sir Ruffington is a very nice dog,’ she agreed. ‘Thank you, Papa, Lot, and Bran.’

‘Why thank you?’ Edward asked.

‘Your parents brought you a present, you say thank you,’ Veronica said.

‘They get play too, sharing nice.’ He stroked his chin. ‘So’s really buyed present for them too.’ He nodded. ‘They say thank you selfs.’

‘Thank you, us,’ Bran said and got down beside Edward.

‘See?’ Edward said. ‘Everyone present.’

‘Yes, Sir Ruffington is,’ Bran said.

I sighed. I was sure they wouldn’t be so enthusiastic the first time they had to pick up its shit. And I’d be sure to remind them.

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