Jane Appleblossom sat down at the table with a relieved sigh. It had been a long train journey to Macadamia Grove, and she was pleased to have had no trouble finding the house. Of course, it helped that the Walnuts’ home was above the Supermarket, and Mrs Katerica Walnut had been very kind and welcoming. Katerica had been a friend of Jane’s aunt at school, and when she heard that Jane had taken it into her head to do a bit of travelling in the countryside, she had insisted that the younger woman stay with her at her family’s home.
When Jane arrived, it was a busy time. Mr Walnut was getting ready to go and open the shop downstairs, and there seemed to be children everywhere!
“Would you like some walnut slice before you go?” Katerica asked her husband. He looked interested, and approached the table.
“Mrs Babblebrook brought it over,” warned Saffron, with a pointed look at her father. He hesitated.
“Isabella? Or… er… the elder Mrs Babblebrook?” he asked.
“The elder Mrs Babblebrook,” Saffron grinned.
“Ah… well… perhaps I won’t,” Cedric mumbled. “Probably should be getting downstairs anyway…” Suddenly he seemed to be in a hurry; his voice trailed off as his bushy tail disappeared down the stairs.
“I’m off too, Mum,” said Saffon. “I’m meeting Honey at the donut shop, remember?” And with a last distrustful look at the walnut slice, she also departed.
Jane was surprised at this reaction from Cedric and Saffron, until she suddenly made the connection – Mrs Babblebrook – “the elder Mrs Babblebrook”… Why, surely they must mean Pearl Babblebrook! Of course Jane had heard the stories. She had even seen a photograph of Pearl Babblebrook, proudly holding aloft a cake she had baked for the christening of Jane’s second cousin. The story went that half the party had had food poisoning for a week, although Jane suspected that that story had gained strength and embellishments over the years. At any rate, the general consensus was that anything baked by Pearl was guaranteed to be dreadful, and that Pearl herself remained completely oblivious to the fact. No wonder Cedric and Saffron had left in a hurry! But Jane had never actually met Pearl herself – and she certainly had had no idea that Pearl lived in Macadamia Grove! What a small world it was, she mused.
She was startled from her thoughts by the Walnuts’ son Twig, who announced, “I’ll have some.”
Sure enough, he took a large piece of slice and began to eat it, quite unconcerned.
“Jane?” Katerica offered, her knife hovering over the slice.
“Oh… no thank you,” Jane faltered. “I – I ate something on the train!”
“And I expect you’d like to freshen up after your journey, of course – silly me!” exclaimed Katerica. “Your room is just through there.”