It is testament to the magnificence of the house that her mother has allotted a room to press conferences. Roughly the size of a scullery maid’s garret, it is furnished with two leatherette armchairs at a low table, upon which are two cups of tea. Kitty has thought of everything, short of introducing her to the gentleman seated there, a fountain pen in his fingers and a fat folder on his lap. But Matty will not bore her brain with superfluous names and the journalist must know who she is or he would not have come. He is a dreary specimen: a rake of a man with elephant ears and a convict’s haircut, albeit redeemed by shiny shoes. Settling into her seat as Kitty leaves the room, she nods encouragement.
His preliminary queries lack initiative but Matty responds with her natural charm. Does she know what place this is? “My home, obviously.” How long has she lived here? “I have never lived anywhere else.” Can she remember what brought her here? “You do not need me to tell you about the birds and bees.” Does she know what year it is? “I do, my dear, do you?”
She takes a sip of tea. The journalist follows suit. Does she hear voices when no-one is there? “Never.” She hears the boy singing nursery rhymes, but that is a single voice. Unless she joins in.
Does she experience odd sensations? Modestly, Matty drops her gaze. Does she feel as if someone has taken control of her body or mind? Clucking at the impertinence, Matty brushes her skirt. “My mother married a prince.”
“Your father was a prince, was he? Did he have strange experiences?”
Matty weighs the question meticulously. His war would have been an exceedingly strange experience, living in a muddy trench under attack from General von Bulow’s men. Could the young journalist conceive of the horror?
How gaunt he is. How pale. It is not only The Great War that makes men martyrs. Not only in battle that they suffer. From her skirt pocket, she produces two jelly babies and offers them to the journalist. Does he decline because they are headless, or because he is not partial to red? Popping them into her mouth, she wonders what would amuse him. Having neglected her practice of late, a recital would be inapt. Even an exasperating journalist deserves better than “The Lion and Albert”. “Do you come here often?” she asks.
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