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Chapter 3 Preliminary Canter

Peggy’s hair was so thick that she had to wear it in two plaits instead of one; so long that when she sat down and let these fall over her shoulders, their ends curled up in her lap. Nell, whose own hair hung lank2 and short about her neck, was never tired of playing with them, pushing a finger in and out between twists so sleek3 and smooth that they felt like a rope come alive.

The two girls were in their favourite place, the hay-loft. For here, if you pulled the ladder up after you, nobody could follow you; though you could see what was going on in the yard below: the men with the horses and carts, or customers taking a short cut to the shop. But you were quite safe from the other girls; and that was what she and Peg1 wanted — to be alone together. The others teased so that it made you simply furious. F’r instance, once when Peggy said she’d ever so much rather have had fair hair than dark, and she, Nell, cried out at her, the other girls pulled faces, and winked5, and turned their eyes up to heaven till you could have killed them.

Here, she and Peg sat with their behinds burrowed6 into the hay, most comfortable, and all alone.

To-day was rather a special day; for Nell had something in her blazer-pocket so secret and important that it almost burned her through the stuff. This was a present for Peggy, and . . . well, now the moment to give it had come, she was feeling just a teeny bit uneasy. How dreadful if Peg didn’t like it — after all the trouble she had had to buy it. Her pocket-money — she got threepence a week, got it honestly, not like one girl they knew, who sometimes sneaked7 a threepenny-bit from her father’s till, under the old bookkeeper’s nose. Well, for three whole weeks now, she, Nell, hadn’t spent a penny of HER threepence (instead of at once blueing it on chocs; she’d almost forgotten what they tasted like) and with her savings8 she’d bought Peggy . . . a hair-slide. Ninepence-halfpenny the exact price was, and she’d been fairly stuck how to raise the extra halfpenny without waiting another week. In the end, there had been nothing for it but to pinch a stamp from her father’s desk, and sell it.

This slide was now in her pocket, neatly9 wrapped in fine tissue paper. But the longer it stayed there the more unsure she grew. The point was, it was intended for a place on Peggy’s head . . . well, for the one piece of her that wasn’t QUITE as pretty as the rest. This was at the back of her neck where the plaits went off, each on its own side. They seemed to leave such a big gap of white skin showing . . . perhaps because they were so dark themselves. Peggy of course didn’t know this — you couldn’t see yourself behind — but she, Nell, did; and every time the patch caught her eye, it gave her a slight stab that there should be ANYTHING about Peg that wasn’t quite perfect. Once, too, she’d heard Madge Brennan make a simply horrid10 remark about people who went bald very young. Peggy didn’t understand; but she did, and bled for her. It was then she’d made up her mind to get the slide.

Another worrying thing was that she’d been lured11 away from the plain, useful one she had gone into the shop meaning to buy, and had taken one set with . . . diamonds. Not REAL diamonds, of course; but they looked just like it. And now she was afraid Peggy might think it too showy for everyday. And not know how to explain it either to her dreadfully big family of brothers and sisters, most of them older than her. They said such rude things sometimes. And her mother, too. One evening when she, Nell, had been waiting in the rightaway, hoping yes, truly, only HOPING Peggy would be allowed out again after tea, the mother, a great big fat woman with an apron12 over her stomach, had opened the window and called out: “Now then, Nellie Mackensen, just you be off! I won’t have you always hanging about here at mealtimes.” As if she wanted their old tea! Her own mother said Peggy’s mother was cross because there were so many of them and she’d so much to do. But it did make you rather wonder what she’d say to the diamonds. (Perhaps she’d throw them out of the window.) Oh dear, things were most frightfully complicated. It would have’ been much better, she saw it now, if she’d bought, say, a nice little diary-book, that Peggy could have carried in her pocket.

But she hadn’t. And the slide was there. Faint-heartedly she drew it forth13.

Peggy, who had been talking all the time — Peg’s pretty mouth was always either talking or laughing — spotted14 the little parcel at once and said: “Hullo, what’s that,— For me? A present for me? Truly? Let’s see! Oh, Nell, you dear! . . . a brooch . . . just exactly what I’ve wanted.”

Nell felt herself go red as a beetroot. “Well, no, not a BROOCH, Peg,” she said in a small voice. “It’s a . . . it’s for your hair . . . behind . . . a hair-slide.”

Peggy’s enthusiasm fizzled out. “A slide?” she echoed disappointedly. “But — what for? Wherever could I wear a slide?”

The fatal moment had come. Nell swallowed hard. “Why, I thought . . . you see, I thought it would look most awfully15 nice, Peg, if you . . . put it on at the back . . . I mean on your neck where the hair leaves off.”

But all Peggy said, and as disbelievingly as before, was: “On my NECK? Gracious! I should never be able to make it stick. Besides, every time I move my head it ‘ud run into me.”

“Then you don’t like it?”

“Oh, yes, it’s all right. But whatever made you think of a slide, Nell?” pressed Peggy, and reflected peevishly16: just fancy going and buying a thing like that, when there are such squads17 of things I really do want.

Nell’s voice was abject18 with apology as she replied: “Well, you know, Peg darling, I’ve always meant to give you something — something private . . . for yourself . . . from me. And — But oh, you don’t like it, I can see you don’t,” and her lips began to tremble.

“Of course I do, silly! But what I’m asking you is, WHY a hair-slide?” persisted Peggy, with a doggedness of which only she was capable.

There was nothing for it: the truth had to come out. “Well . . . I don’t think you know, Peg, but — well, just at the back of you . . . where there isn’t any more hair . . . just there, it sometimes looks so bare.”

Now it was Peggy’s turn to crimson19. Very angrily. “WHAT? So that’s it, is it? I suppose what you mean to say is I’m going bald?”

“Oh no, no, indeed I don’t . . I DON’T . . . mean ANYthing like that.”

“Well, I don’t believe you. And I think you’re simply horrid.”

“I DON’T! It wasn’t me at all. It was Madge Brennan — I heard her . . . say something. And I thought . . . oh, I thought . . .” But here Nell fairly broke down and put her knuckles20 to her eyes.

“WHO? Madge Brennan? That pig-eyed sausage? Said that about me? That I was getting bald? Well, of all the FILTHY21 cheek!” And, everything else forgotten over the personal injury, Peggy went off into one of her hard white rages, when you might as well have tried to melt a stone. “Oh, I’ll pay her out for it, I’ll pay her out!”

Nell’s cheeks were beginning to get a gloss22 on them with tears. “Oh, now . . . you’re so mad . . . you can only think about her. And when I haven’t spent a penny — I mean I haven’t tasted a choc — not for donkey’s years. I’ve done nothing but save and save. But you don’t care . . . you don’t care a bit.”

But Peggy had been too badly stung to resist stinging in her turn. “Well, if you must know, I think it was perfectly23 ridiklous doing all that, just to buy something so — so RUDE. Why not find out first what I really wanted?— instead of listening to Madge Brennan. That’s not how to give a present . . . to somebody you make out to be fond of. Oh, I say, hang it, don’t bellow24 like that!” For Nell had flung herself face-downwards in the hay, and was sobbing25 convulsively. All her money gone; and Peggy offended and furious. She hadn’t meant to say one word about the baldness: it had just been dragged out of her. “And now you’ll never, never forgive me!”

“Rot. Though I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to like you QUITE so much again. As for this, of course I’ll keep it; but it’ll have to stay in a drawer. I’d sooner be hung than wear it, as long as THAT putty-faced Jane’s about!” said Peggy, and gave the slide such a vicious jerk that it fell to the floor. But even as she spoke26 she was wondering if, since she had prepared the way for its disappearance27, she couldn’t exchange it on the sly for something else. What about a nice silk handkerchief, with a coloured border, to be worn in the breast-pocket of her blazer?

“But not altogether, Peg?— you won’t leave off caring altogether?” wept the gift-giver, callous28 now to any but the deeper issue. “For oh, I do love you so.”

“No, of course, not altogether.” But Peggy wasn’t really thinking what she said; for she didn’t stop to swallow before she added, in a kind of stiff, iron voice: “I shall make my mother buy me a hair-restorer right away.”

(Oh, why hadn’t SHE thought of this?) “But you don’t need it, truly you don’t, Peg, it’s as thick as thick . . . all over,” moaned Nell, now only too eager to perjure29 herself. “It’s just the loveliest hair that ever was.”

“Oh, get out! You only SAY that: you don’t mean it.”

“Honest Injun I do! And I wouldn’t tell you a lie. For I love you better than anybody in the world.”

“More than your mother? Or father?”

“Much more. And there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you, word of honour there isn’t!”

“Well, then, I tell you what. You take this thing back where you got it, and make them give you something, else instead.”

At the cruel suggestion Nell’s heart dropped to her boots. “Oh, Peg!” she wailed30, feebly, imploringly31.

“There you are! Didn’t I say it was all words?”

“No, it isn’t . . . I . . . I WILL do it!” (Though her little-girl courage shrivelled to the size of a pea, at the thought of facing Mr. Massey the draper over his counter: he had a long angry kind of black beard, and great round spectacles, that gave him enormous fish eyes.) “But then . . . oh, Peg, then you will like me again, won’t you?— as much as before. And like to come up here. You do, don’t you? You’d rather be here than ANYwhere else?”

“Well, do it first, and then I’ll say. But listen! That’s somebody calling. Oh, Nell, it’s Rex — the new man. Come on, let’s go. He jumps us.”

A bass32 voice shouted: “Now then, you two, what are you up to up there? Oblige me by letting that ladder down at once!”

They hastened to obey, lowering the ladder by its ropes. Then themselves crawled through the trapdoor and climbed down backwards33, Peggy leading, fastidiously mindful of her skirts. But when they reached the last rung, some way short of the ground, they faced about to meet two long arms, two big hairy hands, which, gripping each twelve-year-old securely round the middle, swung her high before setting her on her feet. Carelessly now the short skirts fluttered and ballooned.

“Oh, Rex, one more — JUST one!” coaxed34 Peggy. And up again she flew.

But at the sight of Nell’s swollen35 eyes and blistery-looking cheeks, the man rubbed the tip of his nose with a finger.

“Hullo! what have you been doing to her? Quarrelling, eh?”

Peggy made her sauciest36 face, wrinkling her nose, sticking out her chin, showing the tip of her little pink tongue. “Who asks no questions gets told no lies!”

“Eh? What? What’s that?” and with a laugh Rex dived to catch her. She skipped from his reach, there was a chase, a scuffle, and then for the third time up she went. “There!— that’s for you, you little flirt37, you!”

Deftly38 twisting the curls that served her in place of hair-ribbons, Peggy turned, once she and Nell were out of earshot, and said, in her most innocent tones: “I can’t think WHY he called me a flirt, can you?”

Now the correct answer, the wished-for and expected answer was: because you are one. But, though Nell knew this quite well, and at any other time would have given it, partly to please Peg, partly because it made her happy to see Peg happy, to-day she was too numb39 to care. So her only reply was a flat and toneless: “No.”

Deeply aggrieved40, Peggy threw her a side-glance which stood for: oh, very well, my lady! and at once ran on, glibly41 and enthusiastically: “I DO like Rex, don’t you?— better than any of the other men. He’s got such positively42 gorgeous eyes — they look as if they could never stop laughing. He’s so strong, too; just like a lion — I believe he could fight lions with his hands. (I say, DID you see the hairs on them?) And when he jumps you, it makes you feel as if you’re never going to come down again — and don’t want to.— Well, I must hop4 it, or I’ll be late for tea. Now, don’t FORGET— what you promised.‘bye.”

“‘bye,” said Nell limply, and went on walking by herself, heavy of heart and leg. Oh yes, she liked Rex, too, he was so kind and jolly you couldn’t help it; even though she didn’t show off before him, or put on airs so’s to make him notice her. But Peggy — well, there were times . . . and this was one of them . . . when she felt that she didn’t love Peg a bit — no, not the least little tiny bit. Love her? She SIMPLY HATED her.


1 peg p3Fzi     
  • Hang your overcoat on the peg in the hall.把你的大衣挂在门厅的挂衣钩上。
  • He hit the peg mightily on the top with a mallet.他用木槌猛敲木栓顶。
2 lank f9hzd     
  • He rose to lank height and grasped Billy McMahan's hand.他瘦削的身躯站了起来,紧紧地握住比利·麦默恩的手。
  • The old man has lank hair.那位老人头发稀疏
3 sleek zESzJ     
  • Women preferred sleek,shiny hair with little decoration.女士们更喜欢略加修饰的光滑闪亮型秀发。
  • The horse's coat was sleek and glossy.这匹马全身润泽有光。
4 hop vdJzL     
  • The children had a competition to see who could hop the fastest.孩子们举行比赛,看谁单足跳跃最快。
  • How long can you hop on your right foot?你用右脚能跳多远?
5 winked af6ada503978fa80fce7e5d109333278     
v.使眼色( wink的过去式和过去分词 );递眼色(表示友好或高兴等);(指光)闪烁;闪亮
  • He winked at her and she knew he was thinking the same thing that she was. 他冲她眨了眨眼,她便知道他的想法和她一样。
  • He winked his eyes at her and left the classroom. 他向她眨巴一下眼睛走出了教室。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
6 burrowed 6dcacd2d15d363874a67d047aa972091     
v.挖掘(洞穴),挖洞( burrow的过去式和过去分词 );翻寻
  • The rabbits burrowed into the hillside. 兔子在山腰上打洞。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • She burrowed her head into my shoulder. 她把头紧靠在我的肩膀上。 来自辞典例句
7 sneaked fcb2f62c486b1c2ed19664da4b5204be     
v.潜行( sneak的过去式和过去分词 );偷偷溜走;(儿童向成人)打小报告;告状
  • I sneaked up the stairs. 我蹑手蹑脚地上了楼。
  • She sneaked a surreptitious glance at her watch. 她偷偷看了一眼手表。
8 savings ZjbzGu     
  • I can't afford the vacation,for it would eat up my savings.我度不起假,那样会把我的积蓄用光的。
  • By this time he had used up all his savings.到这时,他的存款已全部用完。
9 neatly ynZzBp     
  • Sailors know how to wind up a long rope neatly.水手们知道怎样把一条大绳利落地缠好。
  • The child's dress is neatly gathered at the neck.那孩子的衣服在领口处打着整齐的皱褶。
10 horrid arozZj     
  • I'm not going to the horrid dinner party.我不打算去参加这次讨厌的宴会。
  • The medicine is horrid and she couldn't get it down.这种药很难吃,她咽不下去。
11 lured 77df5632bf83c9c64fb09403ae21e649     
  • The child was lured into a car but managed to escape. 那小孩被诱骗上了车,但又设法逃掉了。
  • Lured by the lust of gold,the pioneers pushed onward. 开拓者在黄金的诱惑下,继续奋力向前。
12 apron Lvzzo     
  • We were waited on by a pretty girl in a pink apron.招待我们的是一位穿粉红色围裙的漂亮姑娘。
  • She stitched a pocket on the new apron.她在新围裙上缝上一只口袋。
13 forth Hzdz2     
  • The wind moved the trees gently back and forth.风吹得树轻轻地来回摇晃。
  • He gave forth a series of works in rapid succession.他很快连续发表了一系列的作品。
14 spotted 7FEyj     
  • The milkman selected the spotted cows,from among a herd of two hundred.牛奶商从一群200头牛中选出有斑点的牛。
  • Sam's shop stocks short spotted socks.山姆的商店屯积了有斑点的短袜。
15 awfully MPkym     
  • Agriculture was awfully neglected in the past.过去农业遭到严重忽视。
  • I've been feeling awfully bad about it.对这我一直感到很难受。
16 peevishly 6b75524be1c8328a98de7236bc5f100b     
  • Paul looked through his green glasses peevishly when the other speaker brought down the house with applause. 当另一个演说者赢得了满座喝彩声时,保罗心里又嫉妒又气恼。
  • "I've been sick, I told you," he said, peevishly, almost resenting her excessive pity. “我生了一场病,我告诉过你了,"他没好气地说,对她的过分怜悯几乎产生了怨恨。 来自英汉文学 - 嘉莉妹妹
17 squads 8619d441bfe4eb21115575957da0ba3e     
n.(军队中的)班( squad的名词复数 );(暗杀)小组;体育运动的运动(代表)队;(对付某类犯罪活动的)警察队伍
  • Anti-riot squads were called out to deal with the situation. 防暴队奉命出动以对付这一局势。 来自辞典例句
  • Three squads constitute a platoon. 三个班组成一个排。 来自辞典例句
18 abject joVyh     
  • This policy has turned out to be an abject failure.这一政策最后以惨败而告终。
  • He had been obliged to offer an abject apology to Mr.Alleyne for his impertinence.他不得不低声下气,为他的无礼举动向艾莱恩先生请罪。
19 crimson AYwzH     
  • She went crimson with embarrassment.她羞得满脸通红。
  • Maple leaves have turned crimson.枫叶已经红了。
20 knuckles c726698620762d88f738be4a294fae79     
n.(指人)指关节( knuckle的名词复数 );(指动物)膝关节,踝v.(指人)指关节( knuckle的第三人称单数 );(指动物)膝关节,踝
  • He gripped the wheel until his knuckles whitened. 他紧紧握住方向盘,握得指关节都变白了。
  • Her thin hands were twisted by swollen knuckles. 她那双纤手因肿大的指关节而变了形。 来自《简明英汉词典》
21 filthy ZgOzj     
  • The whole river has been fouled up with filthy waste from factories.整条河都被工厂的污秽废物污染了。
  • You really should throw out that filthy old sofa and get a new one.你真的应该扔掉那张肮脏的旧沙发,然后再去买张新的。
22 gloss gloss     
  • John tried in vain to gloss over his faults.约翰极力想掩饰自己的缺点,但是没有用。
  • She rubbed up the silver plates to a high gloss.她把银盘擦得很亮。
23 perfectly 8Mzxb     
  • The witnesses were each perfectly certain of what they said.证人们个个对自己所说的话十分肯定。
  • Everything that we're doing is all perfectly above board.我们做的每件事情都是光明正大的。
24 bellow dtnzy     
  • The music is so loud that we have to bellow at each other to be heard.音乐的声音实在太大,我们只有彼此大声喊叫才能把话听清。
  • After a while,the bull began to bellow in pain.过了一会儿公牛开始痛苦地吼叫。
25 sobbing df75b14f92e64fc9e1d7eaf6dcfc083a     
<主方>Ⅰ adj.湿透的
  • I heard a child sobbing loudly. 我听见有个孩子在呜呜地哭。
  • Her eyes were red with recent sobbing. 她的眼睛因刚哭过而发红。
26 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
27 disappearance ouEx5     
  • He was hard put to it to explain her disappearance.他难以说明她为什么不见了。
  • Her disappearance gave rise to the wildest rumours.她失踪一事引起了各种流言蜚语。
28 callous Yn9yl     
  • He is callous about the safety of his workers.他对他工人的安全毫不关心。
  • She was selfish,arrogant and often callous.她自私傲慢,而且往往冷酷无情。
29 perjure cM5x0     
  • The man scrupled to perjure himself.这人发伪誓时迟疑了起来。
  • She would rather perjure herself than admit to her sins.她宁愿在法庭上撒谎也不愿承认她的罪行。
30 wailed e27902fd534535a9f82ffa06a5b6937a     
v.哭叫,哀号( wail的过去式和过去分词 )
  • She wailed over her father's remains. 她对着父亲的遗体嚎啕大哭。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
  • The women of the town wailed over the war victims. 城里的妇女为战争的死难者们痛哭。 来自辞典例句
31 imploringly imploringly     
adv. 恳求地, 哀求地
  • He moved his lips and looked at her imploringly. 他嘴唇动着,哀求地看着她。
  • He broke in imploringly. 他用恳求的口吻插了话。
32 bass APUyY     
  • He answered my question in a surprisingly deep bass.他用一种低得出奇的声音回答我的问题。
  • The bass was to give a concert in the park.那位男低音歌唱家将在公园中举行音乐会。
33 backwards BP9ya     
  • He turned on the light and began to pace backwards and forwards.他打开电灯并开始走来走去。
  • All the girls fell over backwards to get the party ready.姑娘们迫不及待地为聚会做准备。
34 coaxed dc0a6eeb597861b0ed72e34e52490cd1     
v.哄,用好话劝说( coax的过去式和过去分词 );巧言骗取;哄劝,劝诱
  • She coaxed the horse into coming a little closer. 她哄着那匹马让它再靠近了一点。
  • I coaxed my sister into taking me to the theatre. 我用好话哄姐姐带我去看戏。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
35 swollen DrcwL     
  • Her legs had got swollen from standing up all day.因为整天站着,她的双腿已经肿了。
  • A mosquito had bitten her and her arm had swollen up.蚊子叮了她,她的手臂肿起来了。
36 sauciest d3cf30356c425353eb9c483b3a85bffe     
adj.粗鲁的( saucy的最高级 );粗俗的;不雅的;开色情玩笑的
37 flirt zgwzA     
  • He used to flirt with every girl he met.过去他总是看到一个姑娘便跟她调情。
  • He watched the stranger flirt with his girlfriend and got fighting mad.看着那个陌生人和他女朋友调情,他都要抓狂了。
38 deftly deftly     
  • He deftly folded the typed sheets and replaced them in the envelope. 他灵巧地将打有字的纸折好重新放回信封。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • At last he had a clew to her interest, and followed it deftly. 这一下终于让他发现了她的兴趣所在,于是他熟练地继续谈这个话题。 来自英汉文学 - 嘉莉妹妹
39 numb 0RIzK     
  • His fingers were numb with cold.他的手冻得发麻。
  • Numb with cold,we urged the weary horses forward.我们冻得发僵,催着疲惫的马继续往前走。
40 aggrieved mzyzc3     
adj.愤愤不平的,受委屈的;悲痛的;(在合法权利方面)受侵害的v.令委屈,令苦恼,侵害( aggrieve的过去式);令委屈,令苦恼,侵害( aggrieve的过去式和过去分词)
  • He felt aggrieved at not being chosen for the team. 他因没被选到队里感到愤愤不平。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • She is the aggrieved person whose fiance&1& did not show up for their wedding. 她很委屈,她的未婚夫未出现在他们的婚礼上。 来自《简明英汉词典》
41 glibly glibly     
  • He glibly professed his ignorance of the affair. 他口口声声表白不知道这件事。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
  • He put ashes on his head, apologized profusely, but then went glibly about his business. 他表示忏悔,满口道歉,但接着又故态复萌了。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
42 positively vPTxw     
  • She was positively glowing with happiness.她满脸幸福。
  • The weather was positively poisonous.这天气着实讨厌。


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