HATTIE BOOT – PART III
The town is crawling with cyclists. Belfry is a hub stop with all of the clubs. The small seaside town is fairly bursting with people in pants. Almost every passerby is sporting a pin or a badge similar to Walnut Hill pin you’ve already stabbed through your Valciennces in place of the errant button. The Main Street calls to you; its small shops proudly displaying banners and barrows out on the sidewalk. Ladies are carrying baskets like yours and filling them with luscious looking fruits and bottled refreshments. You must pass a tempting-looking bakery and make a mental promise to the half moon chocolate dipped almond dusted croissant in the window that you’ll come back for it shortly. Finally! A bookstore! You know how Mr. and Mrs. Boot feel about you reading “smut” books. But the ones in Mother’s library are filled with moral nonsense and make you feel as though you’re getting a sermon when you’re relaxing in bed. When you push open the old door, a sweet bell rings, reminding you of Christmastime. Something for your next watercolor. Ah, and that musty, delicious smell of old books – that must be how England smells. That must be what Mrs. Gaskell and Mr. Dickens smelled when they shopped for books. A lovely marmalade tomcat comes to greet you.
“Now, Clovis, stay off the young ladies skirts.”
Too late. Clovis has hurled up on your lap and is pleasantly nuzzling your neck.
“I don’t mind. Truly.” You tell the bookshop owner. She is a woman your mother’s age, but looks nothing like Mrs. Boot. Although she’s not in trousers, an inch or so of her ankle is showing, revealing small, utilitarian boots. Instead of a lot of fancy piping and insets on her bodice, she’s wearing an exotic looking shawl held in place with a constellation of interesting wodden buttons that all look like carved gargoyles.
“I was given these by a Baron.” She smiles, fingering the collection of stickpins. “At his villa. What a time. Have you ever drunk Madeira, my dear? I recommend it.” Suddenly your silly bicycle pin seems like a paper doll in a chess game.
“Well, I should like to try.” Clovis jumps down in a hurry when he hears his mistress spooning something into his dish. You start browsing the shelves, happily conscious of the money jingling in your pocket from the sale of your last painting. Now, this “At Midnight” by Ada Cambridge looks interesting. Something about an Australian couple on their wedding tour in England. And Mathilde Blinds “Birds of Passage” is wildly exciting in its Oriental looking book cover – a torso of cupid …the tombs of the Kings … Spring in the Alps … you don’t quite finish your hungry perusal of the contents before the shop owner brings you a pile of books.
“Read Marie Corelli first,” she advises. “The Romance of the Worlds. And then Cora Linn Daniels’ “Bronze Buddha.”
“I’ll take them all,” you pant, feeling a twinge of guilt as you fish the cross stitch change purse Mrs. Boot made you from your pocket.
“Thank you, Mrs. Moreau,” you say, tucking her card into a cover. “I’m Hattie Boot.”
“How do you do, Miss Boot. We share a love of literature, and for that reason you are a kindred spirit.”
“Indeed. Oh, and Mrs. Moreau, do you sell sketching leads? I seem to have forgotten to pack my pencils.”
Although she doesn’t sell them, she’s got plenty enough to spare a couple. When she disappears in the back room, Cloris startles you by making an epic jump onto the counter and demanding more petting and admiration. Mrs. Moreau returns with a rather bulky package wrapped in brown paper that will only just fit into your basket.
“Did you buy all of those!” She ties some pencils to the string on top as you ask her for some ideas of pretty views for sketching. She describes an old lighthouse, a mysterious rock formation on the jagged shore and a windly clifftop from which you’ll almost certainly see green dolphins or spotted seals swimming. You leave the little shop; your arms heavy with novels and your head laden with inspiration.
1) Will you Keep your date with the chocolate croissant and pop back to the bakery?
2) Or would you rather trundle on along Main Street and see what other Mrs. Moreaus are out and about?