By Beryl Fletcher
Alice was once deserted in England and despatched to New Zealand as a servant, tricked by way of the experts into believing that she used to be an orphan. Now 70, she tells her tale to a mysterious historian and discloses family members secrets and techniques.
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The smell of the orphanage is in the blue bead, unsmiling faces, broken skin, the tears of sad 50 Alice children. Fear is a blue smell, burnt porridge, cold corridors, weeping for lost mothers. “I re-remember everything. Our life at the Warrington’s, the expulsion from my first home after the death of my grandmother, the mysterious gift of money, the death of Mrs Pickens, the taunts of Deirdre O’Neill, the nights on the streets under the pink eiderdown, my abduction to the orphanage, my miraculous time at Emain.
Then a miracle happened, the event that indirectly led to me coming to New Zealand. Matron summoned me into the Director’s office. I was very frightened. I thought I was about to be punished for something. I was overcome with joy to find Miss Catley there. It transpired that she had opened a private school for girls in the near-by Peak District and she required a domestic servant. She wanted me! I knew instinctively that I must appear to be very composed and show no emotion whatever. Emily’s training stood me in good stead.
The first visit was rather awkward because I had never spoken into a tape recorder before. The second visit she didn’t do any recording. She wanted to get some background 26 Alice information. I told her all about Joy and Morry and my three grandchildren and my dead husband Jack. The girl is warm and kind and pretty. Her name is Wendy McDonald. Joy rang me last night and interrogated me again about the extra money and the new things that I have bought. I have quite enjoyed stringing her along but I shouldn’t give her this worry, tempting though it is.