Tuesday, 9 July 2013
The Iron Dragon at Platform One
Coriander Delaunay glanced down at her magazine again and sighed. She was waiting for George. There was, she admitted to herself the distinct chance that she might leave his ticket at the office and take the train herself. She had collected both their tickets and having drunk three cups of decidedly indifferent coffee she had left the cafe and gone directly to Platform one to wait for him.
I swear, she told herself, if he's gone on another wild chase after some wrong-doer, I will commit murder with a handbag - or maybe a hairbrush. After all, she was rather proud of the handbag. It was a red Cecile bag she had managed to buy at a considerable discount after someone had neglected a zero on the price tag. Very fashionable and very red. It did not quite suit her clothes, she wore a dark knee-length chocolate skirt a pale pistachio jacket and a white cotton blouse. Her cloche hat was the same colour as the skirt and the bag, she told herself was a splash of colour. It was fiery against her clothes.
After the three cups of coffee she was soon in dire need of relief. Coriander was a great believer in will power, but the coffee in her system was testing that will power considerably. George's lateness was also not helping. Then suddenly she felt a hand on her elbow and as she turned, George kissed her gently on her cheek.
"You're late," she said bluntly, "I very nearly went without you, but I would have missed the look on your face so I stayed."
He grinned and stooping he picked up her overnight bag and took her elbow guiding her forward towards the platform.
"Let's get on board the train darling and I'll tell you all. I may even show you what I would have looked like had you gone without me," he said.
Coriander giggled and they walked swiftly for the train. George opened the door for her and Coriander stepped on to the train. She found an empty compartment and told George,
"Your turn to wait, I need to powder my nose."
"And a lovely nose it is too. Hurry back Love of my Life. I have sandwiches and tales to tell," he told her, swinging her bags up onto the rack.
When Coriander had been to the Little Girl's Room and was once more in the compartment with George, she sat carefully and took off her hat, running her hand through her short bobbed dark russet hair. She leaned back in her seat and looked at George who was laying out a small picnic supper on the seat beside him. Yes, she thought, I rather like him. He's utterly mad and undisciplined, no sense of time, impetuous as aunt Maud and he makes me laugh even when I feel like the world's falling on top of me. Of course, his hair is too dull, his eyes are green and not blue and he is not going to be a film star any time soon, but I rather like him.
She smiled as he turned to her.
"Do you remember Hecate Primtucket?" he said.
"Wasn't she one of your ex-girlfriends who cottoned on to you?" Coriander said sweetly.
"Not at all, there's only ever been you Queen of my Heart. Well apart from the blonde in my room last night, she was quite hot. Left me all unnecessary. And the glorious brunette who swooned over me at breakfast and called me - well apart from them there's only been you."
She leaned forward and punched his leg.
"You beastly boy. Tell me who this Primtucket is or I'll do something dreadful to you. Of Biblical proportions," she said imperiously.
He nursed his leg and wondered aloud if he just might eat ALL the sandwiches just to teach her a lesson when she raised her fist again.
"Alright, alright, don't hit me, I'll talk!" he said quickly.
The conductor entered the compartment and checked their tickets. His face was slightly grim and when he left, Coriander burst with laughter.
"Lean back O best beloved and I will tell you about Miss Hecate Primtucket," George told her when she had calmed down.
"Give me a sandwich first," she said.
When she was settled with her beef and salad sandwich, George took his sandwich and leaned back to look at her. She was bright, sparky and sweet, he decided. If he could find the nerve to ask her to marry him, he would.
"Miss Hecate Primtucket was a witch twenty or so years ago," he began.
"Not one of those lovely pagan witches who know their herbalism and suchlike, Miss Primtucket was a very dangerous witch full of sound and fury and very significant. She could influence elements and change weather. She was practically seething with actual magic. She didn't career about the place on a broomstick or in a mortar and pestle, she had a rather fast Ferrari Tenebroso.
She was not to be taken lightly. By anybody. It was rumoured that she had once been in love, but the object of her affections betrayed her and ended his life as a toilet brush. Not for her the bitterness of a Miss Havisham, she lived her own life with two black cats called Temper and Tantrum. Both were the scourge of the neighbourhood.
Now it seemed that La Primtucket decided to take a train to see a friend of hers who was on her deathbed. The friend was on the deathbed not Primtucket. So she duly booked a ticket and arrived at the station. It was said that everyone was exceptionally nice to her, just in case. But for one foolish station man everything would have been fine. He directed her to Platform one, which was where her train was coming in. Miss Primtucket waited and waited but the train was late. She kept her cool nonetheless and waited until a large crow flew into the station and landed on her shoulder. People said it appeared to be talking quietly to her before it flew away.
Now Miss Primtucket spoke to the station man who snapped that the train was delayed and it would arrive when it arrived. Then he really put his foot in it and added 'despite dragons or engineering works'. Now there were no engineering works that weekend so that left dragons and Miss Primtucket was quite sure he meant her. This, you will understand made her very angry. It was said that her eyes narrowed to small obsidian pits of darkness and she drew herself up to her full height, which was not very much, but nobody with sense would tell her that.
She whispered something behind the station man's back and glared at a train that was waiting at Platform Two. Then she took her bags and walked away. The train began to creak and groan. It seemed to pause only to sigh before it tore itself to pieces and reformed itself into a large iron dragon. It is reported in the archives of the local newspaper that people screamed and that a small boy was instantly eaten in one mouthful," George stopped and as if to illustrate he took a large mouthful of sandwich.
"Greedy dragon. What did the mother say or is that not reported? Or did she swoon in sheer terror?" said Coriander lightly.
"She would have attacked the dragon, but it took her next in two sharp bites. Mother and son, gone in an instant. Then people fled in utter panic screaming and crying. Only Miss Primtucket continued in a calm and relaxed stroll towards the exit. People begged her to stop the dragon, but she glared at them and they backed away in horror at her expression.
The station man turned to see what all the fuss was and the dragon breathed out a roar of flame that killed him where he stood. Suddenly, Miss Primtucket stopped and so did the dragon. It was as if both of them were holding their breath. The station manager rushed onto the platform and headed towards Miss Primtucket.
"Madam, whatever offence was given, I sincerely apologise for. I believe you were going to Mount Pleasant City but the train was delayed. A large boulder fell from the sky some miles in front of the train and it is taking some time to remove it. If I can be of service to get you to the City, I will surely do all I can," he said.
Miss Primtucket recognised him and smiled. A slightly wintry smile, but a smile to be sure. She whispered a word and the dragon fell into lots of bits of iron on the platform.
"Your apology is acceptable young Harold. I was going to Mount Pleasant City, but it is now too late. Mistress Crowstail has passed away. I will see her in the afterlife. Good day," she answered.
That said, she continued out of the station and was not seen again in our town. It is said that she went to Provence, but naturally I cannot confirm that. The dragon on Platform one was taken to Ferris Hardiman's scrap-metal yard, but of the three victims there was no sign. I tell you this as a moral fable dear one," George said.
"Moral fable? What moral?" Coriander asked.
"Don't mess with witches or dragons," George said solemnly.
Coriander wagged a finger at him.
"Don't you forget it Georgie boy. Or I'll turn you into a frog," she told him.
He appeased her with sandwiches, for a good sandwich turneth away wrath.