Tommy was still going strong as we came out of the pavilion. The house was
over to our left, and since Tommy was standing in the field straight ahead of
us, there was no need to go anywhere near him. In any case, he was facing the
other way and didn't seem to register us at all. All the same, as my friends set
off along the edge of the field, I started to drift over towards him. I knew
this would puzzle the others, but I kept goingeven when I heard Ruth's urgent
whisper to me to come back.
I suppose Tommy wasn't used to being disturbed during his rages, because his
first response when I came up to him was to stare at me for a second, then carry
on as before. It was like he was doing Shakespeare and I'd come up onto the
stage in the middle of his performance. Even when I said: "Tommy, your nice
shirt. You'll get it all messed up," there was no sign of him having heard me.
So I reached forward and put a hand on his arm. Afterwards, the others
thought he'd meant to do it, but I was pretty sure it was unintentional. His
arms were still flailing about, and he wasn't to know I was about to put out my
hand. Anyway, as he threw up his arm, he knocked my hand aside and hit the side
of my face. It didn't hurt at all, but I let out a gasp, and so did most of the
girls behind me.
That's when at last Tommy seemed to become aware of me, of the others, of
himself, of the fact that he was there in that field, behaving the way he had
been, and stared at me a bit stupidly.
"Tommy," I said, quite sternly. "There's mud all over your shirt."
"So what?" he mumbled. But even as he said this, he looked down and noticed
the brown specks, and only just stopped himself crying out in alarm. Then I saw
the surprise register on his face that I should know about his feelings for the
"It's nothing to worry about," I said, before the silence got humiliating for
him. "It'll come off. If you can't get it off yourself, just take it to Miss
He went on examining his shirt, then said grumpily: "It's nothing to do with
He seemed to regret immediately this last remark and looked at me sheepishly,
as though expecting me to say something comforting back to him. But I'd had
enough of him by now, particularly with the girls watchingand for all I knew,
any number of others from the windows of the main house. So I turned away with a
shrug and rejoined my friends.
Ruth put an arm around my shoulders as we walked away. "At least you got him
to pipe down," she said. "Are you okay? Mad animal."
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