No Saffron, though.
"There isn't a Saffron," said Saffron after another long search. "I've looked, and there isn't! I've read it all, and there isn't!"
Nobody seemed to hear at first. Caddy continued painting her hamster's feet. The baby continued screaming. Eve continued explaining to the health visitor (who frightened her very much) that she had not noticed anything at all wrong with Rose until the health visitor pointed it out, and the health visitor continued tut-tutting.
"I can't find Saffron!" complained Saffron crossly.
Indigo said, "Saffron's yellow."
"I know Saffron's yellow!"
"Well then, look under the yellows," Indigo said, and tipped the whole of the coal bucket upside down on the hearth, enveloping his end of the room in a cloud of coal dust.
This made the health visitor start coughing as well as tutting.
"I don't know how you keep your patience!" she said to Eve. Her voice showed that she thought it would be much better if Eve did not. She had dropped in to weigh Rose, as she often did, and had noticed at once that the baby had gone a very strange color. A sort of brownish mustard. She seemed to think it was a terrible thing that Rose should have gone mustard without anybody noticing. She began undressing her.
"I've looked under all the yellows," said Saffron loudly and belligerently, "and I've looked under all the oranges too, and there isn't a Saffron!"
Rose wailed even louder because she didn't want to be undressed. Her mother said, "Oh, darling! Darling!" Indigo began hammering at likely-looking lumps of coal with the handle end of the poker. Caddy let the hamster walk across the table, and it made a delicate and beautiful pattern of rainbow-colored footprints all over the health visitor's notes.
"Why isn't there a Saffron?" demanded Saffron. "There's all the others. What about me?"
Then the health visitor said the thing that changed Saffron's life. She looked up from picking something out of Rose's clenched fist and said to the children's mother, "Doesn't Saffron know?"
The words fell into a moment of silence. Rose held her breath between roars. Caddy's head jerked up and her eyes were startled. Indigo stopped hammering. Eve went scarlet and looked very confused and began an unhappy mumble. A not-yet, not-now sort of mumble.
"Know what?" asked Saffron, looking from the health visitor to her mother.
"Nothing, dear," said the health visitor in a bright, careless voice, and Saffron, who was frightened without knowing why, allowed herself to believe this was true.
"Nothing, nothing!" repeated the health visitor, half singing the words, and then in a completely different voice, "Good heavens! What on earth is this?"
Rose's fist had come undone, revealing that she held a tube of paint (Yellow Ochre), obviously very much sucked.
"Paint!" said the health visitor, absolutely horrified. "Paint! PAINT! She's had a tube of paint! This household...I don't know! She's been sucking a tube of paint!"
"What color?" asked Indigo immediately.
"Yellow Ochre," Caddy told him. "I gave it to her. I didn't think she'd suck it. Anyway, I'm only using nontoxic colors."
"Caddy!" said her mother, laughing. "No wonder she's gone such a funny color!"
"I'm ringing the hospital!" said the health visitor in a voice of controlled calm. "Wrap her up in something warm! Don't give her anything to drink! We'll go straight to Emergency...."
Then for a while Saffron forgot her worries while they all tried to convince the health visitor that none of Caddy's colors were in the least poisonous, and that Rose, except for needing washing, was quite all right.
"But why did you give it to her?" the health visitor asked Caddy.
Copyright © 2001 by Hilary McKay
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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