“Right,” said Rosalie. “Nearly there.”
She was standing on a chair in her kitchen. We’d gone off to her house when college finished so that we could look up Professor Dean’s address in the telephone directories. College only had the London ones, but Rosalie had lots more. They were a bit out of date, as they’d come in a job lot with the stuffed giraffe, but as Rosalie said, you never knew.
Rosalie handed a pile of directories down to Ann, who staggered under the weight, as there are four directories for London alone, and they’re all massive.
“Here you are,” she said, as she dumped them on the table. “You try and find an address for Professor Dean, Jill, and we’ll look up the London universities in the others.”
We set to, but the directories weren’t a huge amount of help. There weren’t any Professor Deans, for a start, but then Dinah had told Susan they lived outside London, so that wasn’t surprising. There were plenty of telephone numbers for the universities though, but as it was too late to ring anyone now, we divided them up and decided we’d ring them tomorrow, when we were allowed out from college.
By the time we’d done that, Ann and I needed to scoot if we were to get back to the eyrie by ten, so Rosalie saw us out and off we went. I felt quite odd: I was happy that finally we had the first decent idea of where Black Boy was, but I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that there was a lot more to come, and that if Dinah thought I’d heartlessly sold Black Boy, she wasn’t going to let me have him back just like that. What with me musing on that, and Ann being in an odd sort of dream world, we had a silent journey back to college. Even after we got to bed, the night seemed endless. I kept on waking up, with the weirdest dreams. First of all I found Black Boy in a smart London shop, then walking in the Park with all the nannies and last of all going round the school at Mrs Darcy’s, muttering that he’d quite like a hat, thank you very much. Eventually the morning dawned, and we flogged off downstairs to college and typed and did shorthand until we were dizzy. Lunch hour dawned at last, and we grabbed a bun from the basement. Ann headed off to the phone box round the corner, I went to the one in the Park, and Rosalie and Susan went home. I drew a blank with my list: none of them had a Professor Dean. We’d arranged to meet on the steps of the college when we’d finished our calls, and Rosalie and Ann were already there when I turned the corner from the Park.
“No real luck,” said Rosalie. “No,” said Ann. “University College has a Professor Dean, but they wouldn’t give us his home address. The best they could suggest is that we write a letter to him there.”
Well, my heart sank into my boots. I expect you’ll think it was a bit silly, but after all the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the past week, I had thought that at last we’d have someone we could contact who would be able to tell us something, instead of yet another obstacle.
“We’ll have to do that then, I suppose,” I said, and we all sat down on the steps. Frankly I think we all felt flattened. I was starting to wish Mrs Whirtley hadn’t encouraged Dinah with all this horse-saving business, when suddenly I had a brainwave. “Oh!” I yelped, and I jumped up and ran up the stairs, leaving Ann and Rosalie staring after me. I ran up to the eyrie, grabbed my address book off the chest of drawers, and ran back down again.
“Mrs Whirtley!” I said, as I flung myself down on the steps again. “She took Dinah under her wing after Blossom Hall. I bet she’ll know where she is. I bet she writes to Dinah all the time. And I’ve got her phone number right here, from when we helped her organise the gymkhana.”
“You are a genius,” said Ann. “Now, have any of us any money left for the phone?”
Between us we managed to scrabble together enough for one call, and five minutes later, we had Dinah’s address. She wasn’t on the phone, so we’d either have to write to her or go and see her.
If it had been up to me, we’d have gone straight off to Dinah’s house, which was in Kent, straightaway, but it wasn’t up to me, and college refused to let us have any time off. Miss Potts made dire mutterings about my shorthand speed and disappointment, so we had to wait until the weekend, and it was torture, I can tell you. Life, as I have often noticed, is not like children’s books, and so we were chained to the relentless round of shorthand, typing and secretarial practice. None of us could concentrate, and even Ann, who is usually pretty hot at shorthand, joined me at the back of the class for remedial Pitman’s Manual reading. I couldn’t help but wonder what Black Boy was up to. It was almost worse now I knew (I hoped) where he was. We’d rung Captain Williams and described Dinah to him, and he’d said that yes, that did sound like the same girl.
At last Saturday dawned, and I was so strung up I couldn’t eat any breakfast. Susan couldn’t come because she was meeting her father for lunch, but Rosalie met us by the tube and we set off. By the time we got to Charing Cross, I had recovered a bit, and we had coffee and cake in a café inside the station. Rosalie had bought a bag of doughnuts – the particularly nice sort that have jam nearly all the way through, instead of making you eat your way through a mound of dough until you reach a blob of jam that wouldn’t be enough for a mouse – and we ate them on the train. Ann said she felt like a wild rebel, because her mother would have had fifty blue fits if she’d seen her eating on a train. Rosalie said her mother wouldn’t have noticed what she did, and I had a feeling that Mummy would have sympathised with Mrs Derry. We had to wait ages at Dunton Green for the connection to Westerham. There was only one bench at the station, which we shared with a tweedy gentleman reading a copy of The Times. Every time one of us said something, he rustled the paper, until at last it rustled so furiously we thought we’d better move and wait further up the platform in case The Times spontaneously combusted. (I don’t know if paper can do that, but I’d read Dickens’ Bleak House, where someone did spontaneously combust, and since then, I’d wondered. You know how it is.)
At long last, the train for Westerham crawled into the station, looking as if the last thing it wanted to do was move any further. It dawdled, and huffed and puffed in a very half-hearted manner, and at last we were decanted at Westerham, which was one of those pretty towns that looks as if it hasn’t changed for centuries. Fortunately it was market day, so there were plenty of people about, and plenty of them had an opinion on how we could get to French Street, which turned out to be a hamlet just outside Westerham. Even more fortunately, a farmer who’d bought a load of chickens offered us a lift in his van to the road leading to the hamlet. He set us down, pointed out where we needed to go, and set off with his crowd of squawking chickens. The road dived off down through a wood, and then past some ancient cottages, which reminded me of Pool Cottage. We walked past more cottages, and ended up at the top of a hill, where a path zigzagged down to a small cottage at the bottom. Beyond it was a large barn, surrounded by fields. There were ponies grazing in the fields; a bay, two pretty chestnuts and a grey, and then there was Black Boy. He was standing at the fence looking over at the track which ran along one side, and the breeze was lifting his mane and tail.
I gave a funny sort of gulp.
“It is him, isn’t it?” said Rosalie. “I thought it must be, from the look on your face.”
I simply couldn’t speak. I could hear Ann sniffing behind me. We pulled ourselves together and walked down towards the ponies. When we were about half way down the hill, the ponies heard us. Their heads went up and they stood watching us, their ears pricked. Black Boy watched too, and I could see his ears flicking backwards and forwards, with his head cocked on one side, which he does when he’s a bit puzzled about something. I wanted to run towards him, but of course it had been drummed in to me that you never, ever run towards a horse. Black Boy was looking at me, making that funny little wuffle he does when he sees someone he knows. Then he gave a huge snort, as if he was saying, “Where on earth have you been?” I flung my arms round his neck and I howled like a kid.