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.‘Soon be there,’ Lizzie said again, and this time she meant it.‘We’re nearly at the end of Augustus Road now – do you see? – and then we’ll turn the corner into Wimbledon Park and you’ll see the station.’What they saw were two more columns of laden children toiling along in the sunshine.One was a line of boys in full school uniform, caps and all, the other was a junior school with lots of little’uns, wearing enormous labels and holding on to one another’s hands.Heavens above! Lizzie thought, stunned to see so many children.They’ll never get all this lot on one train.Still, that’s their problem.All I’ve got to do is make sure my group keep together and that we all get into the same compartment.‘Don’t get lost,’ she said to them.‘This could be quite a crush.’‘Look!’ Iris said.‘There’s a sweet shop.Can we stop and get a drink, Lizzie? It says soft drinks.On the placard.’‘No, you most certainly can not,’ Lizzie said in her sternest voice.‘It wouldn’t take a minute,’ Iris persisted.‘We’re nearly there.’Lizzie was adamant.‘I’m not having you getting lost,’ she said.‘Just keep on holding my hand.You can have a drink later on.There’s Miss Henry, look, just by the entrance, waiting to check us in.’‘How did she manage that?’ Mary wanted to know.‘She must have run all the way.’‘She came in Smithie’s car,’ Lizzie said, spotting it beside the pavement on the other side of the road.‘Heavens!’ Mary said.‘They are organised.’‘Here we go,’ Lizzie said, shepherding her group towards the entrance.‘Keep together all of you.’Her warning was timely because Southfields Station was crowded with children and their luggage.Miss Gordon was standing on the platform with the school number raised high and Miss Smith beside her, and there were teachers everywhere urging them to spread out so that they would all be in position and ready for the train when it came, but there was no sign of a train.The minutes passed and more and more children poured onto the platform.Lizzie took off her knapsack and put it down at her feet and the rest of her group followed suit.Iris said she was hot.They waited.And waited.A quarter of an hour went by according to the station clock.And they waited.And waited.When the train finally approached – much, much too slowly – they were so relieved they gave it a cheer.Then there were several minutes of jostling confusion as they picked up their luggage and struggled into the nearest carriages while their helpers ran up and down the platform trying to make sure their groups were all on board, but at last Lizzie and her charges were all together in one compartment and could take off their impossible hats and coats and put them in the luggage rack.‘Sit tight for a minute while I open the windows,’ she said, pulling on the leather strap to let the nearest window down.‘Once we get going we shall get a breeze and then we’ll all feel a whole lot better.’But once the train began to move, her first-formers felt a whole lot worse and Iris began to cry.She didn’t say anything, she simply sat squashed between Mary and Sarah while the tears rolled down her cheeks and dripped off the end of her nose.Lizzie couldn’t think what to say to comfort her.‘It’ ll be all right’ would be banal, especially when none of them knew whether it would be all right, and ‘cheer up’ would be worse.But while she was trying to think of something suitable, Mrs O’Connor took action.She moved across the carriage, told Sarah to shove up, sat down between them and put her arms round them both.‘You’ll see her again in a day or two,’ she promised.‘You’ve got your postcard, haven’t you? Well then.You just send that off the minute you know where you’re going to be staying and I bet your mum’ll be down to see you on the next train.’‘Will she?’ Iris said, still weeping.‘’Course she will,’ Mrs O’Connor reassured.‘Like a shot.You got a hanky, have you? Good.Dry your little eyes and have a good blow of your nose.That’s the ticket.’ She looked round at all the serious faces in the carriage, disentangled her right arm from Sarah and pulled a paper bag out of her handbag.‘Would any of you like a humbug?’The little sweets cheered them all.That’s what I should have thought of, Lizzie told herself.I’ll know next time.There’s an art in being responsible for people and part of it’s working out what you’re going to need before you need it.It was an art her headmistress had been exercising at full stretch over the last few crowded days.At that moment she was driving her little black Ford down Melrose Avenue, heading for Wimbledon and the next stage of the journey, with Maggie Henry in the passenger seat beside her and young Janet in the back seat with her shopping basket and Maggie’s typewriter.‘That went quite smoothly, all things considered,’ she said to Maggie as she drove past Wimbledon Park Station and another long crocodile of trudging schoolchildren.‘At least we didn’t leave anyone behind.And the staff know where we’re going [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]