|It was a tranquil evening in Die Blumen. Jo and Jack had left that morning, but had regretted to say that, as they would be touring, they were unreachable.|
The Mob were, this evening, learning to look after themselves.
In the day nursery, the lights were on and the curtains were shut. With the yellow decor, the soft , warm light gave a cosy effect to the room, especially as there was rain coming down in torrents outside the window, in the midst of a howling gale. Surrounded by four strong walls and seven sisters, the eight occupants felt safe.
Felicity, who was acting nursemaid, finished another row of knitting and peered over her knitting needles at her charges. She was a motherly kind of girl and had inherited, like all her sisters, a comforting quality to her personality, although, unlike her mother, this was not an aspect of her which was part of her general aura.
She had asked her mother to teach her to knit about a year ago and she had taken to it like a duck to water. She now looked on it as being second only to her ballet, and it was her tendency to perform random acts of kindness which had led to her offering to knit a jumper for her older sister, Connie, who, born and raised in the South of France, was still unused to the bitter temperatures of a Tyrolean Winter, despite the new pea-green jersey which Jo had bought for her to wear over her T-shirt, and was in desperate need of an extra layer. She had opted for wool in a deep royal blue and a pretty pattern which featured wool that looked as though it was in a thick plait by way of decoration. It would compliment her colouring as much as her jersey did and would go well with that as well. Miss Felicity was an efficient knitter and one sleeve was already done.
She was minding the first set of Jo's much-longed-for quads, who were all named for their godmothers: four of Jo's closest friends. The eldest, Marie, was chestnut-locked, with curls that rested on her shoulders and bright green eyes. She wore a rose-pink tunic over a white T-shirt which had sleeves that puffed out and ended at the elbow. The look was topped off by white tights and black Mary-Janes.
Don't be fooled by the angelic appearance, though. Marie was the leader of the four and was very impulsive, and could also be quite bossy if she didn't think about what she was saying. She never meant to be, though. Her heart was very much in the right place and she always tried to be very considerate and put others' needs and wants before her own.
At the minute, she was engrossed in re-arranging the furniture in La Maison des Poupées, as over the years, various siblings, mostly girls, although Geoff had been known to fiddle with it and Will had even gone through a stage where it had been his favourite toy, had moved the furniture about and Marie the perfectionist had taken it all out and was deciding what would look best where, so that it was a neat, well-organised house, rather than the jumble it had been before. She was quite sure that the Poupée family would not want to live in a pig-sty, and that was, indeed, what some rooms had resembled, with furniture piled almost to the ceiling. On chair had been broken as one could not shut the house for its legs sticking out of a room stuffed full of furniture. On the other hand, some rooms had very little furniture and one had none at all. So now, there was a pile on the carpet of furniture, some glue, some soapy water, a needle and thread and a cleaning cloth and the ten-year-old had set out to restore the house to its former glory. She was several months into this project and already, she had decided that, when she grew up, she was going to have people send her their old, dilapidated dolls' houses and pay her money to have her send them back, good as new. Marie Mary Maynard: self-made billionnaire.
Every now and again, she would remove a handkerchief from her sleeve as she worked and cough or sneeze into it, or else blow her nose.
"Cold, Marie?" asked Felicity lightly. Her sister nodded.
"Yes." Then: "Belicidy?"
"Do you t'ing thad this chair should be in de drawig-roob or Mr. Boubée's study?"
"Oh, dear, that is bad!" said Felicity brightly and got down on her hands and knees.
"Oooh, you want an armchair like that in the drawing-room. But they are both decorated red, aren't they?"
Marie nodded and got back to work.
Then, there's Frieda, of the blue eyes and straight red-gold hair right down to her hips. She wears an outfit similar to Marie's, only with a mint-green tunic. She is the quiet, shy one, and at that moment, she was proving this as she slept peacefully on the yellow carpet. Felicity was glad. She had been looking pale and more than.a little peaky.
The third quadruplet, Simone, had black hair and was also quiet and shy, solidly unemotional, unlike her namesake. The ends of her hair rested neatly on her shoulders and a lock of hair fell over one eye. Her tunic was yellow, and at that point, she was engrossed in a book.
The youngest of the First Quads, Elisaveta, Lise for short, was by far the most talkative. She looked very Tenniel, with a pale blue tunic, primrose-fair hair which curled down her back, stopping at her waist, with a neat fringe down to her eyebrows. She wore a black Alice band in her hair, meaning that she looked very much like the little girl for whom they were named. Her disarmingly blue eyes made her look about five years younger and she was forever recieving comments from admiring adults, mostly women, saying what a lovely little thing she was. Being a Maynard, she found this marvellously annoying, but her family had to quash the urge to laugh when they said that they were sure an innocent little creature like her always helped to keep the peace at Die Blumen. In truth, she could, to quote Reg "talk 'til the cows come 'ome." It was true, as well. Right now, she was leaning against Felicity's legs, that young lady having returned to her seat. She was talking incessantly about Felicity did not know what, not having been listening to a word.
The Second Triplets were also there, but Jane, Joan and Jean, as Joey had got her way with, made far less impression. Also aged ten, the three heads were huddled under the same blanket, reading separate books.
Jane was black-haired, with her straight locks reaching down to her hips. She had a plain, dark red dress on and a white Edwardian-style pinafore, and her tights were black. Her shoes, however, were dark red ballerinas. She rarely said anything.
Joan had rosy cheeks and freckles, giving her a fun kind of look. Her chestnut hair was caught back in a tail bound by a pink ribbon. Her yellow dress was simply cut with no flamboyance, except for a plain rose-pink petticoat under her skirt. The neck was square and frilly and there were matching frills on the sleeves, which reached just above her elbow. She had a pink ribbon round her waist. There were pink roses embroidered all round the hem. She wore brown stockings and practical yellow brogues. She was the sensible, practical one of the three.
Jean was the only girl in the room who was not wearing a dress. She was the energetic, tomboyish one. Her jeans reflected this, but her top was a pretty one, yellow with a design of black branches, on which rested a pink bird and a green one. She had black socks and yellow ballerinas and her red curls went unrestrained. Her freckles gave her the typical redhead look, and many thoughtless adults said that she looked a firebrand, whereas in truth, she was somewhat of a peacekeeper when it came to fights, although she had a hot flare-up-cool-straight-down temper which no-one wanted to rouse.
It was left to Felicity herself to complete the picture. She wore her hip-length, primrose-fair hair in a thick plait, tied with a black ribbon. Her dress was rose-pink, and out of sheer habit she wore a pinafore over it. She was enveloped in a huge, brown shawl, and she wore thick, white knee-socks and black brogues. She was kedping a watchful eye on her young charges and hoped to goodness that the word supper would not pop into their heads, or else, God help her.
Down in the playroom, which had little difference to the nursery, but was where the Mob generally spent the day, whereas the nursery was generally an evening room, Connie herself was minding her seven charges. Never for a moment did the Maynards make her feel that she was not one of the family purely because she had not been born to Josephine and John Maynard, her parents were Adelaida and Furo el Garzia, and as a result, the seven were as hard on her as they would be on one of their blood siblings. This varied.
She had a younger set, the Third Triplets and the Second Quads, aged ten and nine respectively. She had them sitting on the floor, in a circle, and she was explaining to them the story behind the Anaconda, the symbol of the Xanti tribe. According to the story, a young princess from the Awati tribe, Essi Soshi, meaning Brave Heart in Xanti, the tongue she invented, was forced to marry a prince from another tribe. As the story went, she refused and ran away. She was learned and clever, and when she came across the great Serpent King, she recognised him for what he was, despite his human disguise, and loved him, rather than hated him, for it. As a result, the curse upon him had been broken and he became wholly human again. She married the Serpent King, and they had many children. Some were anacondas, some were humans. They founded a tribe, and they called it the Serpent tribe, in their own language, the Xanti. The Xanti and Awati tribes have always had close ties.
As Jo had got her way with Jane, Joan and Jean, Jack had insisted that the next set of triplets must be Maria, Eliza and Martha. Jo had readily agreed.
Maria was the eldest, protective of her triplets, but she rarely had anything to say. She knelt on the floor, her hands placidly resting on her thighs. She had long black hair and green eyes and she very closely resembled Jane. She wore a dress with a pale blue bodice, pink short sleeves and a pale green and black gingham skirt, which had two layers. She wore a pink Alice band in her hair, and on her feet, she wore white ankle socks with a lace trim and brown Mary-Janes.
Eliza was next, she and Maria were as different in appearance as chalk and cheese. She had blonde ringlets which brushed her shoulders and big blue eyes which missed nothing. She wore a dark red skirt which pooled out around her as she sat and listened. She had a white T-shirt exactly like the ones worn by the First Quads, only the sleeves were runched and they had frills. She had a black vest on over this and white tights, with black Mary-Janes. She also listened in earnest, her face lifted eagerly to her elder sister.
Martha was again different. Her hair was the colour of rich, milky tea, and it was down, round her shoulders and to the middle of her back. Her green dress was a simple, cotton affair, with long sleeves and a straight, knee-length skirt. She wore stockings and matching Mary-Janes. She sat placidly, as was in her nature, listening to Connie.