The train heaved itself slowly out of Westerham, and as Ann asked Rosalie about what Robin was up to in Yorkshire, I drifted off into a dream. The thing is, while I was in that field with the ponies, I’d decided to let Dinah keep Black Boy and buy Rapide back, but once she said she’d give Black Boy to me, I’d forgotten everything I’d decided in the joy of getting him back. Although I knew I had to stick with that decision, it felt as if I was losing Rapide all over again.
“Are you all right?” asked Rosalie. “Because you’re not behaving like someone who’s just got her pony back.”
Ann sighed too, and muttered something about Yorkshire being such a long way away.
“Gosh, whatever is the matter with you two?” asked Rosalie. “It’s like being in a carriage with a pair of walruses. Here, have some chocolate.”
I simply couldn’t.
“No, not for me either,” said Ann.
“Of all the mutts,” said Rosalie. “I just don’t understand you two.”
We sat in gloomy silence until Dunton Green, where we got off to find we were standing right next to the military gentleman who’d been so irritated by us on the journey down. He goggled at us in horror, snorted, and marched off to the other end of the platform.
That made us giggle, which lightened the mood a bit, and after all, I couldn’t stay gloomy for too long because I did still have one of my ponies back, and although I wasn’t going to start skipping around like Basil the Birdsong Boy, I was beginning to feel a bit better.
“Have you got any of that chocolate left?” I asked Rosalie.
“Ha!” She said. “I knew you couldn’t hold out for long.”
The train for London arrived, and we climbed on. We settled ourselves down, and once we’d sorted ourselves out, I asked Rosalie:
“How busy are the other stables near Park Lane? Do you think they’d be able to fit Black Boy in?”
“Oh, is that what’s biting you? Why didn’t you say? I shouldn’t think there’d be a problem. Captain Williams usually keeps a couple of horses and ponies to sell on, and I know the liveries come and go. Ours always did.”
“And do you know how much he’d charge?”
Rosalie told me what they’d charged, and said Captain Williams usually charged about the same, though less if he used your pony for rides. It was rather more than I’d been expecting, but I thought if I was very strict with myself, I could do it.
“Let’s call in at the stables on the way back,” I said.
“Sorry,” Rosalie said. “I’ll have to go straight home. Mummy’s getting ready for the private view tonight. You hadn’t forgotten, had you?”
“No,” I said, though actually the whole thing had completely slipped my mind.
Fortunately Rosalie didn’t appear to have noticed.
“And besides, Susan’s been going through her clothes because she’s decided nothing she brought with her from Switzerland is right for London. They’re just right for me though, so I’m going to go through them and pick some things out. There are piles of them. You’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ann and I caught each other’s eye, and I knew we were thinking the same thing. Susan had turned up to college in a very smart black and white dogtooth check jacket with bracelet length sleeves and a matching skirt that she’d bought in Paris which I would have given my eyeteeth for, and the next day in an equally nice gingham dress that Ann had taken one look at and fallen in love with. They made Ann and my tweed skirts, which we’d been very pleased with when we bought them in Rychester, look very ordinary indeed.
We spend the rest of the journey mulling over just what was in Susan’s pile of discarded clothes, and whether we could all actually rock up to college wearing her cast offs. The train seemed a lot keener on its journey back to London than it had been on its way out, and we were soon drawing into the station. We said goodbye to Rosalie, got the tube to Hyde Park Corner, and walked up Park Lane. There was an evening ride getting ready to go out. Captain Williams was helping a tall, tweedy man with his stirrups (however many tweedy men were there in London? I wondered), and he looked up and saw us.
“Miss Crewe, Miss Derry,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
I explained that I needed livery for my pony. Captain Williams finished sorting out the stirrups, nodded to the man and turned to us.
“That shouldn’t be a problem. Would you care to come to the office, and we’ll discuss terms?”
There was nothing I’d have liked better, but we needed to get back to college before Miss Dodds went out for the evening so we weren’t locked out, so we agreed that I’d take away a list of charges, and come back tomorrow.
Ann and I trotted back across the Park, and once we’d got back to college, we went upstairs to the eyrie to get ready for the private view. I got out my Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick, and Ann had some Cherries in the Snow nail varnish, so we put that on as well, and it wasn’t quite the same shade as the Fire and Ice, but it wasn’t far off, and we both felt frightfully sophisticated. We weren’t quite sure what you wore to a private view, but it wasn’t as if we had bulging wardrobes from which to choose, so we made do with our tweed skirts, and I had a silk shirt I’d bought with my earnings from our pony job period, and Ann had a pretty Susan Small one her mother had bought her for her birthday, and so we were set.