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A Remarkable Holiday
by Amita Sinha

�Do we have to go and stay with Aunt Matilda daddy? Cant we go with you and mum to Amsterdam?� queried the little girl while stuffing a ham sandwich into her mouth. �No honey, it�s a business trip and mum is going there only to help me,� replied her father.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown had to go to Amsterdam for a fortnight on some official work. Luckily it was the summer holidays, so the children were going to stay with Aunt Matilda at her sea side bungalow in the near by town. She stayed there alone. She was the widowed sister of Jim Brown and was around fifty five years of age. The children loved her very much and went to visit her whenever possible.

�C�mon Daisy, finish your tea quickly otherwise we�ll be late,� her father admonished her. �Coming daddy,� Daisy said and ran out to the car. Mrs. Brown was upstairs finishing her packing. She called out to her other two children to hurry up. Samantha the eldest daughter came out of her room carrying her hand bag in her hand. �I�m ready mummy. I�ll go and check what Clara is doing.� Jim came up and helped his wife close the two bags. �Darling, I hope you have kept my camera in the luggage. I�m surely going to find time to do some photography in Amsterdam.� �Don�t worry dear, I have kept it safely. Come, let�s lock up the rooms.� At last, everyone was inside the car .Joseph the driver was taking them to the airport to drop Mr. and Mrs. Brown and was then proceeding to Aunt Matilda�s where he would remain with the children. George and his wife June were staying on at the Brown�s home �Silver Petals� to look after everything but their daughter Sally was going with the children to look after them.

�Bye George, bye June, see you soon�, shouted the girls and the car moved onwards heading for the airport. On the way Crystal, the girls� mum kept reminding Sally when to give medicines to Clara for the allergies. At last they reached the airport and Crystal hugged her daughters� good bye. �Don�t worry mummy, we�ll be fine,� said Samantha. �Just come back soon.� �Bye darlings. Don�t give any trouble to Aunt Matilda,� said Jim kissing his three daughters. So on went the car with Joseph and Sally entertaining the children with small talk to distract them.

They passed a small village on their way where a group of children waved them goodbye. The sea side town of Roseville was another hour away. Sally took out a hamper and gave the girls a glass of lemonade each with some cheese and egg sandwiches. Joseph and Sally had a few sandwiches too and then the car purred along towards Roseville.

The children grew excited when the sweet little town was visible. The car reached �Sunflower Cottage� and Daisy jumped down from the car and rang the bell. The door was opened by Betsy, Aunt Matilda�s maid cum companion. She was a large fat woman with a cheery face and big brown eyes. Her hair was short and curly and she wore a bright red apron around her ample waist. She hugged each of the girls and ushered them inside the cottage. They entered the sitting room and sat on the huge multicolored sofas. Joseph and Sally got out the baggage from the car and took them inside. The children were to share the guest room next to their Aunt�s bedroom on the first floor.

�Aunty has gone shopping with Mrs. Baxter from next door. She will be coming back in about an hour. Why don�t you go up to your room and freshen up, I�ll get tea ready. Since it is so pleasant, you can have it in the garden,� said Betsy helping Joseph and Sally with the luggage. �Ok Betsy,� yelled the children running up the stairs two at a time.

While the girls were having tea and talking to Betsy�s daughter Nonie, (who stayed there and helped her mother after school) Aunt Matilda arrived with Mrs. Baxter. �Hello aunty! Hello Mrs. Baxter!� the girls said coming forward to meet them. �Hello sweethearts, how are you all? It is so nice to see you all,� said the two friends. Betsy served tea presently and Mrs. Baxter returned home after that. Later on the girls went for a walk to the beach accompanied by Nonie. The evening was spent catching up on the latest gossip with Aunty. The girls watched TV for a while. The evening meal was served earlier than usual because the children were a bit tired. They ate minestrone soup, dinner, rolls chicken pie and caramel custard. When the children reached their room for the night, their belongings were already unpacked by Betsy and kept in cupboards. The room was quite big with a four poster bed in the middle. The walls were painted light blue and the upholstery and curtains were a bright shade of pink. The attached bathroom had crimson tiles and a sweet little shower cubicle.

�Why have you picked up my nightgown Clara?� said Samantha taking her camel colored nightgown from her sister�s hands. �Oh! Sorry I thought it was mine. Where is mine by the way? Dear Daisy you are sitting on it.� At last the children had changed and were in bed with a book each when Sally brought them their night cap of hot milk. Daisy held Sally�s hand, �Sally, please will you tell me a story?� �Of course I will,� said Sally and sat by her bedside holding her hand. She began a fairy tale and by the time it reached half Daisy was asleep. �Goodnight Samantha. Go to sleep Clara,� said Sally taking the book from her hand. �Let me read just a little more,� said Clara. �No Missy you will be too tired in the morning. You must get your beauty sleep.� �Ok goodnight Sal.� Samantha switched on the night light and soon the girls were sleeping soundly.

Samantha was 15 years old, had black hair and eyes and was tall and slim. Her eyes matched her father�s; both Clara and Daisy were blondes with blue eyes like their mother. Daisy was chubby and still a bit short for her age. She had just completed her eleventh birthday. Clara was thirteen and rather lazy. She had a dimple on her left cheek. Samantha was in the tenth grade; Clara was studying in class eight and Daisy in the sixth grade. All three girls were learning to play the piano. Samantha was quite an expert at table tennis, swimming and ballet. Clara was always lost in books and could sing very well. Daisy was good at painting.

The girls got up when Sally came and pulled the curtains. �Come on kiddies� time to get up.� All of them got ready in about a quarter of an hour and reached the front covered verandah, called the Patio, just before eight thirty. Aunt Matilda was waiting for them for breakfast, sipping a cup of hot strong aromatic tea. The table was laid out with hot buttered scones, marmalade, honey, fruits and orange juice. Betsy had made cheese toast especially for the three girls. After breakfast, Joseph brought the car round and Aunty took the girls and Nonie to Church. Every Sunday, Aunt Matilda went to Church. She introduced many of the local acquaintances to the girls and a few of them invited the girls to their place.

The girls returned and played basket ball with Nonie for about an hour. Lunch was eaten in the dining room. Betsy had made Russian salad, mutton chops and bread pudding. In the afternoon the girls took a short nap. Early evening saw them at the beach building sand castles. Nonie had brought her red plastic ball with her and all of them played with it. In the evening Mrs. Baxter had called them over for dinner. The girls bathed and dressed and by seven were ready to go. Daisy wore a pink frock, Clara a blue and pink skirt with a pink silk top and Samantha wore a black skirt and a silver top. She looked very pretty and was admired greatly by Danny Baxter and his two friends who were staying with him, Mickey and Sam. Danny was the son of Mrs. Baxter�s sister. The chicken roast and vegetable a la kiev made by Velvet, Mrs. Baxter�s cook was mouth watering and the lemon souffl� was superb. The girls were asked to play the piano which they did and were really appreciated.

The next day the girls decided to go for a picnic to the beach. Everyone gathered in the kitchen to decide what the picnic hamper would contain. After a long discussion, Betsy settled for ginger beer, egg and tomato sandwiches, a fruit and nut cake, chocolate chip cookies and a tin of baked beans in tomato sauce. The girls got ready and were waiting for Joseph to take them to the beach. Aunt Matilda had invited her old cronies for tea and snacks. Nonie arrived with the beach ball, a hoola hoop and a skipping rope. All the four girls were wearing swim suits under their bright summer dresses.

The day was spent playing games, swimming and collecting rare shells. The evening saw tired children going to bed after a hot bath and a light dinner. Aunty was already tucked into bed with a good book when the girls went in to bid her goodnight.

On Wednesday, Aunt Matilda told the girls she would be taking them out for lunch and shopping. Joseph drove the car throughout the town while aunty pointed the main attractions of Roseville. The morning passed in sight. At one, the children entered the lovely old cosy Chinese restaurant called �The Chinese Inn� and settled down with pre lunch soft drinks. Lunch consisted of chicken fried rice, American chop suey, vegetable Manchurian, sweet and sour prawns, mixed chow mein and spring rolls. After lunch they walked over to the nearby park where Joseph spread out an old bedcover on the grass and everyone lay down for a short nap and rest. By four they reached the biggest department store in town called �All You Want�. Aunt Matilda bought a dress each for all the three girls and one for Nonie too. Samantha had chosen a peach and candy colored skirt blouse set with a belt and hat to go with it. Clara had eyes for a bright pink dress with silver buttons and a cute little silver pink purse to match it. Little Daisy was having problems deciding a dress for herself, so she asked Samantha to help her choose. Both the girls put their heads together and at last decided on a blue and white frock with daisies embroidered on the collar, sleeves and pocket. The sweet dress had a little doll wearing the same dress tucked into one of its pockets and lovely blue and white sandals to compliment it. Daisy was really thrilled with her dress. Nonie shyly pointed at a red and white simple frock and aunty gave her a box of pretty lacy hankies to go with it and was thanked profusely by her. After this, aunty bought a few items for Betsy�s kitchen and some cosmetics for herself. Samantha too bought a pink lipstick for herself from the pocket money she had saved and brought along with her. Clara bought a book and Daisy a new indoor game which she planned to play with Nonie. While returning, aunty treated the girls to ice cream cones bought from a road side vendor. Samantha had vanilla and strawberry two in one cone, while Clara settled for peach and mango cone. Daisy and Nonie had chocolate and nut cone. Aunt Matilda had a plain vanilla cone while Joseph and Sally had coffee cones.

In the evening, the girls were too tired to do anything, so after a long hot relaxing bath, they had an early supper and went to bed. Early next morning, Aunt Matilda decided to send to visit the circus. Samantha and her two sisters bathed and dressed themselves into cool summer dresses and left with Joseph, Sally and Nonie to �The Great Magical Circus�. Over there they met Danny and his friends who treated the girls to candy floss and ice cream cones. They invited the three girls to come to the celebration dinner next day at the local Youth Club. The club was celebrating its renovation which was going on for a few years and had now been completed. There was to be dancing there too. The girls were thrilled and so was their aunt when she heard about it. Next day was spent relaxing and playing indoor games with Nonie, Joseph and Sally joining in. By the afternoon though, Daisy started having a headache and was put to bed. It was decided she would stay home with aunty while her sisters went with Danny, Mickey and Sam. Samantha was a bit undecided about leaving Daisy behind but was persuaded by both aunty and Sally who promised to take good care of her. At last the two girls were ready. Samantha looked radiant in her soft pink and silver dress with a bracelet and earrings to match. Her feet were adorned with silver sandals and she carried a small pink and silver purse. She had put on pink lipstick and eye shadow with a little blush on and her long black hair was pleated into a French plait. Clara looked wonderful too in a long black and blue dress with golden buttons and a golden purse. She wore black sandals and golden round big earrings to match. Her hair was combed back with a golden and blue comb. She also had put on pink lipstick and blue eye shadow but refused to put blush on saying cheekily that she would try and flutter her eyelashes at every boy she met and blush rosily like the Georgette Heyer heroines. Aunt Matilda burst out laughing and was still shaking when the door bell rang. Danny and his friends had arrived to pick up the girls. �Danny be a good boy and don�t let it be too late�, admonished aunt Matilda and Danny promised to get the girls back before midnight. At the club the girls had a super time. They met many boys and girls of their own age. Samantha was asked to dance by each and every boy in the room with Danny being her first and last partner. Clara danced a few dances but later on got engrossed in a discussion about books and authors going on at the end of the room. By eleven forty five, Danny brought the girls back promising to take them for a picnic the next day.

Early next morning, the girls got ready for their picnic. Daisy was fine and going along too with Nonie. Danny asked Joseph to take them to a picnic spot a few miles out of town. This place was called �Palm Springs� because there was a natural spring with Palm trees and rocks where you could have a relaxing time. There was a small lake near by too where swimming would be wonderful. The only thing the boys warned the girls about was the woods near by. They were dark and dangerous. It was rumored that there were smugglers and thugs in the jungle but no one had any proof. The morning was spent swimming, playing cards and bingo while Nonie and Daisy decided to pick some flowers. Lunch was at one with Joseph and Sally joining in. Danny had brought along chicken and ham sandwiches, a pot of home made cherry jam, a tin of honey biscuits and ginger beer while Betsy had packed a delicious picnic hamper containing a flask of cold coffee, mushroom and macaroni pancakes, fruit and nut cake, cheese straws, sweet buns and mutton quiches. In the afternoon everyone rested quietly while Daisy and Nonie played hide and seek.

At about four thirty in the evening everyone decided to make a move but saw that Daisy and Nonie were nowhere to be seen. Samantha started panicking and made Joseph search the whole area but to no avail. Sally and the boys looked and called from time to time but there was no answer. It had started getting a bit dark and now Samantha decided to check the woods before it was too dark to see. Everything was packed into the car and they started moving towards the woods. By this time Clara was sobbing too saying it was all her fault. The car had to be parked at the tip of the jungle and everyone started making their way into the jungle. They kept moving inwards encountering spiked bushes and shrubs, moths, squirrels, ants and birds of different varieties. At first the jungle seemed to be very deep and dark but later on they found a road of sorts which seemed man made for convenience. It was narrow and rough. After going forward for about a mile and a half shouting the two lost girl�s names, the search party reached a place which was open and had many serpentine roads going off it in all directions. Here Joseph decided to go with the girls in the right direction while Sally and the boys took the left turn. After about ten minutes, Samantha noticed footsteps on the road which were surely Daisy�s and Nonie�s but larger footsteps accompanied the children�s footsteps too. Joseph led the way forward with Samantha and Clara following behind. They had just rounded a corner when they saw two dark, burly looking men smoking cigarettes and drinking beer near a locked shed behind which sounds of struggling could be heard. The men were looking towards the shed laughing and joking among themselves. Joseph pounced on one of them and the other was taken by surprise from behind by the two girls. By now Sally and the boys had come along too finding nothing the other way. Joseph, Danny and his two friends tied the two bad guys while Sally and the girls unlocked the shed finding Daisy and Nonie crying bitterly. Joseph locked the two men into the shed and they quickly returned to the car, not knowing whether the gang had more men or not. They informed the police on their return journey home, who promptly went and got the two guys. They confessed to kidnapping and selling children to gangs outside the town who made them beggars by making them disabled. The three other bad guys, involved in kidnapping Daisy and Nonie from a secluded spot near the start of the jungle, were caught too and thus the town was free from thugs and kidnappers.

Next day the police chief, Mr. Grant, came to �Sunflower Cottage� and gave a medal each to the girls and Nonie. He even had badges for Danny, Mickey, Sam, Joseph and Sally. The next day the big news was in the local paper and everyone in the small town knew about the girls� story. Aunt Matilda was so overwhelmed by all this that she threw a gala party to celebrate Daisy�s and Nonie�s safe return to the cottage. All her friends and well wishers were invited and it was a great success.

At last it was Sunday, one day before the girls would be off to their own home. Aunty took the girls shopping, buying them what they wanted, gave them a fabulous lunch at a pretty little sea side restaurant called �Pink Roses� and took them to a movie in the afternoon. The evening was spent packing since the girls were to leave early in the morning. Daisy gave Nonie one of her old doll to remember her by. Aunty had a dress for Sally and a jacket for Joseph. Samantha gave aunty a lacy scarf which she had crocheted herself; Clara had made a hanky box for aunty while Daisy had embroidered �Love to Aunty� on a pretty pink handkerchief for her. The girls had jointly purchased a dress for Betsy from their pocket money which was greatly appreciated.

Next morning goodbyes were said tearfully, the girls promising aunty to come and visit her for Christmas along with their parents. Betsy had made a special going away chocolate cake, mutton rolls, ham and bacon sandwiches to go with strawberries and cream. The car moved along the highway and the girls passed the time talking about their adventures and fun at �Sunflower Cottage�. Joseph and Sally took part in the conversation smiling broadly.  

15-May-2005
 
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