Puzzled, she'd gone in search of her husband, Mr. Dickens, who she knew was painting the garden.
Mr. Dickens wasn't painting the garden in the sense that John Constable might paint a landscape or Turner a seascape, with oil paints onto a canvas. No, Mr. Dickens was going around the garden, painting some of the leaves a greener green. As he was getting older -- and he wasn't that old -- his eyesight wasn't quite what it had been, and some colors (especially browns and greens) seemed duller, which was why he was going around with a pot of bright green paint and a badger-bristle paintbrush. Unfortunately, unlike the whale, I've no idea whether this particular badger died of natural causes. I'm very, very, sorry.
Having found the shell in her otherwise empty sewing box and knowing her husband was painting the trees, the garden was a logical place for Eddie's mother to go and how she came to drop the shell where she did.
Okay? Okay. I think that just about covers everything. So let's get back (which is really moving on, because it happened later) to Eddie and his mother, on crutches, walking up the drive to Awful End that cold winter's afternoon.
"You want me to go to America?" said Eddie in amazement.
Copyright © 2003 Philip Ardagh
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