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Extract from THREE YELLOW CUSHIONS (p.12-13)
« What was your doll like ?» the man asked while taking her hand. « Was it a nice doll ?» Agathe nodded several times, sniffing on and off.
« But what was it like ? » he man asked again.
« Made of material» said Agathe who had soon stopped crying ; « a cloth one with red hair, well, gingerish, and she’s got a long blue ankle-length dress with whiter flowers on it ; she’s got another dress too for the winter, it’s brown corduroy with lace on it, Mummy made that one, and then…
— Is it big ? the man interrupted her.
— She’s three, Agathe said, that is already big for a doll. »
The man smiled ; he got up to sit next to her ; he put his black leather attaché case on the bench and she and Cécile both moved up a bit to make room for him. She was now quite happy to chat.
« I’m not asking how old she is» the man started up again – and when he started to speak his smile has left his lips but could still be seen in his eyes – « I’m asking you if she is big : is it a big doll or a little doll ? »
Without hesitating Agathe held her hand at the same height as the seat.
« Like that, she comes up to here… Nunuche is a bit bigger ; but the size of dolls doesn’t mean much, there are even really small ones, I’ve got a friend at school…
— Now listen to me, the man said, the three of us will search together, she certainly can’t be very far, dolls don’t run away.
— It’s not worth it, we’ve already looked everywhere » replied Agathe in a very opinionated way and Cécile even added : « it’s not worth it» whilst staring at her still swinging feet.
« Then let’s go and ask the boys who are playing over there, perhaps they have noticed something, perhaps they’ve taken it to play a joke on you. Do you know them ?
— No it’s not them, she said flatly, they were with us near the pond, they didn’t stop shooing off the ducks so we wouldn’t be able to give them bread.»
The man thought about it for a moment. Agathe looked at him and waited. With his short brown hair and his rectangular shaped face he looked like her mother’s colleague who sometimes came to the house to pick her up in the evenings ; except that her mother’s friend didn’t have a black coat and he never stayed with Agathe talking to her about her doll or anything else for that matter. Sometimes he didn’t even come in, he simply hooted in his car and her mother who had been ready for some time would put her coat on quickly, bend down to kiss Agathe and tell her to be good ; she said she wouldn’t be back late, that her meal was ready on the kitchen table and that she shouldn’t forget to turn off the gas. This man was much nicer – it was kind to help them look for Louise, even if it didn’t serve any purpose because Agathe was now convinced that she had been stolen ; lots of children haven’t got such nice dolls, she knew that, some are spiteful too, they’d do that just to be nasty, they were jealous.
So the man said : « Well, if you are sure it’s not them all we can do is to go and see the park warden and describe what Louise looks like – like that, if ever he finds her or if someone brings her back he’ll let you know straight away. What do you think about that, Agathe ?
— Yes, I agree, said Agathe getting up. The warden lives up in the big house near the greenhouses. He is the one who looks after the animals.»
They went off round the pond looking for the warden. The man walked quickly although he was careful to pace himself for the two little girls. Cécile and Agathe took the biggest steps they could but nevertheless had to really trot sometimes to keep up with him. Cécile held Nunuche under her arm like a bag, she didn’t care much about her at all, there were days when she didn’t take any notice of her whatsoever.
« He’s in, we know that, said Agathe out of breath ; we saw him go up there a little while ago before feeding the ducks. He doesn’t want us to feed them, it’s forbidden, so we have to keep a look out for him. »
The man had slowed down to wait for Cécile who was following along half-heartedly ; he looked at Agathe. She had skipped three or four times to get ahead of him and was now walking backwards practically in front of him whilst talking :
« Do you think it’s wrong to feed them ? They are hungry, you know : the minute you throw them a bit of bread they all grab it at the same time. We two throw the bread in the water, like that they swim for it. It’s not wrong, is it ? Perhaps Louise is already at the warden’s ? Perhaps someone has given her in thinking that she’d been forgotten on the bench ?
— I haven’t got a clue, replied the man and Agathe didn’t know if he was talking about the ducks or about Louise ; perhaps…» He’d got back into his normal pace now that Cécile had caught up with them.
« It’s there » said Cécile pointing at the pale green French window surrounded in wisteria. The man turned toward her :
« Ah, you can talk too then ? »
The pane shook as if it was going to fall through when he knocked. No-one came, he made a funny face, raised his eyebrows, the corners of his mouth downwards, and shook his head several times. They both laughed and smiled at him just as a lady opened the door. She said her husband was in the greenhouses if they absolutely did want to see him, but the man said he didn’t want to bother him, it wasn’t worth it, and explained everything to the lady. All the time he was talking, she was wiping her hands on her apron and then she turned to Agathe : « Is the doll yours ? » Agathe nodded. The lady went back inside and came back on the doorstep with a pencil and a notebook.
« You see, sweetie, it’s my husband who usually looks after this ; leave me your name and tell me where you live, every day we find a lot of things in this park ; if we find your doll we’ll tell your Mummy.»
Agathe hadn’t liked being called ‛sweetie’ but she had given her name and address that the lady had jotted down. The man leaned over to watch her doing it as if he was afraid she would make a mistake ; then they thanked her and off they went. At the crossroads of the main path that goes off to the gates he said goodbye to both of them but Agathe realised that it was obviously mainly for her. They stood there while he walked off in the sun. A bit further on, before leaving, he turned round and gave them a little wave ; Agathe and Cécile waved too and went home for their tea.
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