Complete the reading lesson at the link below:
Read the next part of the text – it is quite long again!
Inside the village hall was a table laid for tea. It was a decent-looking spread – thick white bread with proper butter underneath the jam, and slices of dark crumbly fruit cake. But Mr Barrowman shooed us away from the table.
“We’re not here to eat the locals out of house and home,” he said sternly.
“Can’t we have some?” whispered Cliff, who I knew would be starving.
“No one else has, so we’d best not,” I answered. “We don’t want Queenie to think we’ve got worms.” At least people weren’t lying when they said you got better food in the country. This lot looked wholesome and fresh, and gave me high hopes for what we’d eat tonight at Queenie’s.
Behind the table stood a group of women, who I guessed were locals. Even the younger ones were still dressed in the long skirts and bell hats Londoners had worn in the other war, the one that ended twenty-two years ago.
“Which is Queenie?” Cliff asked.
I didn’t know; I’d never seen a photo. In my head I pictured her as tall, like Gloria, with a warm, smiley face. Being Sukie’s penpal, she was bound to be the fun-loving, lipstick-wearing, jitterbugging type, who’d be friendly and welcoming towards us.
It was bewildering that no one in the group fitted her description. These women didn’t even smile. They were pointing at us evacuees – discussing us – like they were choosing what cake to have for tea.
“I’m looking for help with milking my Jerseys,” said a woman with large front teeth. “Someone who’s not shy of getting up at dawn.”
The older kids seemed to think this was a right lark, especially the boys, most of whom had probably never been near a live cow before. Within moments, they were falling over themselves to volunteer.
“Don’t take all the best ones, Poll,” another woman complained, which started them all off bickering over who’d get the strongest boys.
It wasn’t exactly fun, hovering like a spare part while everyone else got picked. There was no sign of anyone who might be Queenie, either. I grew anxious again, wondering how much longer we’d have to wait. Cliff leaned his head sleepily on my shoulder.
“D’you think she’s forgotten us?” he yawned.
“Course not, you daftie.” I tried to stay cheerful for both our sakes. “She’s probably just adding the finishing touches to our supper.”
“What d’you reckon she’s made us?”
I thought for a moment. “Steak pie probably, with bread and butter pudding for afters.”
I nodded. “A whole jug full,” which made Cliff’s stomach rumble so loud that I actually heard it.
Yet as the hall began to empty and Queenie still didn’t appear, I wondered if there’d been some sort of mix-up. Or perhaps she’d changed her mind about having us, being too upset about Sukie’s disappearance, and we’d be put on the next London train home. I wished someone would tell us what was going on.
What unsettled me more was the sound of crying coming from the back of the hall, though I couldn’t see who was making it: Mrs Henderson, Miss Carter and one of the local women blocked the view.
“You mustn’t think like that,” Mrs Henderson was saying. “None of this is your fault.”
“If anyone’s to blame it’s Hitler,” Miss Carter added.
“Every time I get settled, I have to move again.” The voice was a girl’s, wobbly with tears. “I liked it at the Jenkinses’ house. It was … all right, you know?”
“Once the bombing stops you can go back to the Jenkinses again, can’t you, eh?” said Mrs Henderson.
“But even that’s not my real home, is it?” the girl sobbed.
“I know, lovey, I know,” soothed Mrs Henderson.
I still couldn’t see the person crying, but with a start I recognised her voice. The strange, gruff twang was a giveaway, as was the name ‘Jenkins’.
“Crikey,” I muttered under my breath. If someone as tough as Esther Jenkins could cry, there wasn’t much hope for anyone else.
But for us and the little group surrounding Esther, the hall was now completely empty. I felt miserable. We might as well have stuffed ourselves with the bread and jam: no one would’ve noticed. I was about to take some for Cliff and myself, when Mrs Henderson looked round.
“Oh, you poor mites!” she gasped in surprise. “You’re still here!”
“Yes, we are,” I said dismally. I waited for her to say something, to tell us what to do, but she simply looked at her watch and frowned.
“So is Queenie coming for us?” I asked.
She let out a big bellow of a sigh. “That’s the plan, though goodness knows where she is. I can’t wait here for ever; I’ve got my goats to milk.”
Cliff and me glanced at each other: why would anyone milk a goat?
“I specifically told her to be here at six,” Mrs Henderson continued. “This isn’t good. It isn’t good at all.”
“Perhaps she got the day wrong,” I offered, though it sounded pretty feeble.
Mrs Henderson shook her head. “It’s those clocks of hers – very romantic but terribly impractical.”
I didn’t know what Mrs Henderson meant, but I was starting to realise my days of counting on grown-ups and big sisters were over. I was going to have to take charge myself.
I turned to Cliff. “Buck up, let’s grab our things, shall we? If Queenie won’t come to us, we’ll go to her.”
Which was all very well except we didn’t know where the post office was.
Have a look over the letter that you wrote yesterday. Can you make any improvements?
Complete this lesson on Spanish animals