The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence chapter sampler


A distant memory

Freja snuggled her scarf around her neck and pulled her woollen hat down low. She wriggled about on her tummy until she was comfortable, then lifted the binoculars to her eyes. Her gaze slipped down the summer-lush hillside to the river, where a small herd of musk oxen had gathered. What a sight! Bony foreheads. Powerful, downward- sweeping horns. Long brown hair that rippled gracefully in the wind. The herd ambled along the edge of the wide, shallow river, grazing on grass, moss and ground- hugging shrubs. Their calves, eight in all, frolicked about like lambs. Big, fat overgrown lambs. ‘Oh, Clementine!’ gasped Freja. ‘Just look at their babies! Fluffy brown barrels with stout cream legs.’ Clementine made a murmur of agreement, but her own binoculars did not leave the herd.


Freja nestled further down into their nook between the granite boulders. Her feet were already frozen and the Arctic chill was seeping into her legs. She shivered, broke off a piece of chocolate, popped it into her mouth and continued to watch the musk oxen. Two of the chunkiest calves ran around the edge of the herd. Stumbling. Leaping. Nudging their shoulders against one another. Jostling for first place. Each claiming to be the biggest, strongest ox in Greenland. But a frightening howl from the wind sent them running back to their mothers, babies once more. There, they huddled and hid in the warm brown hair beneath the cows’ bellies. Freja giggled. Thick juicy reeds and lush green grass grew abundantly along the river, but the musk oxen now headed straight for a clump of Arctic willows. Even the smallest calves abandoned their mothers’ rich, warm milk to nibble a leaf or two. The low shrubby plant was a favourite. ‘A special treat,’ whispered Freja. ‘Like chocolate.’ And she popped another two pieces into her mouth. ‘You sneaky little fiend!’ Clementine gasped. Freja froze. She looked at her mother, blushing. ‘Sorry,’ she whispered. ‘It’s the cold. It makes me so hungry!’ Clementine turned towards Freja. ‘What? Oh no!’ Her face softened and she smiled. ‘I wasn’t talking about you , my darling girl. You’re welcome to eat as


much chocolate as you like. What’s mine is yours. Always. Especially my chocolate and my cuddles.’ She wrapped her arms around Freja and drew her close. Freja nuzzled into the woolly warmth of Clementine’s coat, like a musk ox calf burrowing into its mother’s hair. She felt safe and loved and said a silent thank you that, when mothers were being handed out, she got Clementine. They had a good life together. A strange and solitary life, but a good one. ‘Who’s the sneaky fiend?’ asked Freja. Clementine tilted her head down the slope towards the river. ‘Look closely. Let’s see if you can work it out for yourself.’ Freja smiled and nodded, taking up the challenge. She peered through the binoculars once more. One of the calves had returned to frolicking. He galloped around the edge of the herd, leaping, kicking, bellowing, bouncing. He’d almost made a full lap when his playmate jumped out from where he was hiding beneath his mother’s long hair and head-butted him. The first calf staggered, then ran back to his own mother, bleating in despair. Freja laughed. ‘It’s the calf, isn’t it? The quiet but cheeky one who wants to be king of the herd. He’s the sneaky fiend.’ Clementine chuckled. ‘He’s a scallywag, that’s for sure. And he’ll bother his mother terribly before he grows up and finds his own way in the tundra. But no. The sneaky fiend is elsewhere.’


Freja frowned and returned her gaze to the herd. The wind changed direction and a moment later delivered a pungent, musky scent to Freja’s nostrils. ‘Poo!’ She grimaced and waved a gloved hand before her face. ‘Musk,’ explained Clementine, ‘from that enormous bull down to the left. It’s the perfume he uses to attract the cows. That smell is why we call them musk oxen!’ ‘Maybe,’ suggested Freja, squeezing her nose, ‘they should call them stink oxen.’ Clementine chuckled. Freja scanned the far side of the water for human hunters. She looked further up-river for wolves — a prowling pack or a lone predator hoping to find a stray calf. There was none. So where was the sneaky fiend? Freja was fumbling about for another piece of chocolate when something small, brown and furry caught her attention. It disappeared behind a clump of willow, then popped its head out the other side, beady eyes glistening, pointy nose twitching. It moved to the next clump of willow, slipping as smoothly as an eel through water. ‘You sneaky little fiend!’ hissed Freja. She pulled off her hat and rubbed at her hair. Her wild golden curls sprang up all over, adding drama to her words. ‘It’s a weasel! A wicked weasel on the hunt!’ Clementine smiled. ‘Yes. But why here , Freja?’ ‘Hmmm.’ Freja frowned and dragged her hat back over her curls. ‘He can’t possibly hope to make a meal


of a musk ox! He’d have to eat a thousand times his own weight! Which would be fine if the weight was in chocolate … but nobody wants that much meat!’ Popping two more squares of chocolate into her mouth, she chewed thoughtfully. ‘There must be mice! In the grass … or in the willows!’ ‘Yes.’ Clementine paused. ‘But why here ? There are mice all over the tundra. Not to mention birds and rabbits. The weasel could hunt in any number of places. You’d think the musk oxen would be a bother to such a solitary hunter.’ Freja scrunched her nose. ‘Think about it, my sweet,’ said Clementine. ‘Look beyond what you already know. There are hidden truths just waiting to be discovered.’ The wind brought a fresh waft of musky bull odour to their hideaway. Freja’s eyes grew wide. ‘I’ve got it!’ Clementine beamed at her. ‘That sneaky fiend!’ cried Freja. ‘The weasel is hunting here , because the scent from the herd is masking his own scent. The musk oxen are herbivores, so the mice feel safe scampering about amongst them, sharing the berries and grass. But a greedy, flesh-eating weasel is bad news. A weasel is to be avoided at all costs.’ Freja shuddered. ‘But the poor little mice don’t know there’s a weasel to avoid because they can’t smell him!’ At that very moment, the weasel pounced from his hiding place into a nearby clump of grass. He emerged


seconds later, the limp body of a mouse hanging from his jaws. Freja let out a small sob. Clementine dropped her binoculars and squeezed Freja’s shoulder. ‘Come on, precious girl,’ she whispered. ‘You know it’s the way of things. We’ve seen it many times before. There are predators and there are prey.’ ‘But the weasel was so sneaky ,’ whispered Freja. ‘Yes,’ agreed Clementine. ‘He certainly was. The sneaky weasels are so much worse than the others.’ She lowered her voice. ‘But a clever mouse will keep her eyes and ears and nose open to everything that is going on around her and, at the end of the day, will beat the weasel at his own game.’ And suddenly, Freja realised that today’s lesson was about so much more than weasels and mice.


CHAPTER 1 A hilltop in Provence

Tobias Appleby’s vintage green motorcycle whined and chugged its way up the hillside. Black smoke billowed from the exhaust. The sidecar wobbled and bounced as though it was about to break free and take its own special journey through the hills of Provence. The two passengers, a ten-year-old girl and an enormous Irish wolfhound, seemed not to mind. They wobbled and bounced, at one with the sidecar, as happy as two peas in a pod. The girl, Freja, smiled so that her teeth flashed and her blue eyes sparkled. The strap of her helmet fluttered up and down at the side of her chin like an over-excited moth. The dog, Finnegan, grinned and dribbled. His ears flapped about like two bits of tattered bunting caught in the breeze. The engine backfired with a bang. Finnegan jumped so that his large hairy head cracked against Freja’s.


‘Okay, old chap?’ yelled Tobias. He looked over to Freja and, as he did, turned the handlebars in the same direction. The motorcycle veered to the right, drifting into the loose gravel at the side of the road. Sun-dried acorns and small white stones sprayed up around them. Grit filled the gaps in their teeth. Low- hanging oak branches whipped across the top of Freja’s helmet. ‘Tobby! Tobby! Tobby!’ she squealed. ‘Woof!’ barked Finnegan. ‘Whoopsy-daisy!’ Tobias chuckled and steered the motorcycle back into the middle of the road. The engine backfired once more. ‘The old green jalopy is struggling a little with our weight up these hills!’ shouted Tobias. ‘Perhaps we shouldn’t have eaten quite so many croissants for breakfast!’ Freja yelled back, ‘I don’t think our croissants matter so much as the three kilos of pork sausages that Finnegan gobbled from the kitchen before Madame Veron noticed!’ Finnegan turned around and grinned at the mention of sausages. He dribbled on Freja’s shoulder, then licked her cheek. The road curved sharply and continued to climb. The oak forest thinned and was replaced by a vineyard to their left. The view opened up and, ahead of them, on the next ridge, a village appeared. Tobias chugged to the side of the road and turned


off the motor. Freja’s ears continued to ring for a moment, then filled with the delicious sound of silence. ‘Claviers!’ cried Tobias. ‘Our new home!’ He flung out his hand to indicate the village and smacked the dog on the nose. Accidentally, of course, but that did not make it any less painful. Finnegan yipped, sneezed and leapt out of the sidecar. He ran down the hill and disappeared between two rows of lush green grapevines. ‘Oh dear!’ cried Tobias. ‘I’d better catch him before he digs up a prize-winning grape … or eats someone’s cat.’ He jumped off the bike and galloped down the hill. ‘Hey-ho! Come back here, puppy-wuppy-woozle!’ He stumbled, tripped and vanished from sight. Freja giggled. She climbed out of the sidecar and stretched. Pulling off her helmet, she let her golden curls fly free in the breeze. ‘Claviers,’ she whispered, gazing at the distant village. Normally, her heart sank at the sight of towns, but this place was different. It looked rather lovely, a part of the landscape. The stone buildings hugged the hilltop, blending into one another and the rocky outcrop. Their walls glowed with light and warmth in the midday sun. A church tower was topped by an iron bell-cage which reached gently, naturally, into the bright blue sky above. Nothing intruded. Nothing jarred. It all looked like it belonged amidst the hills and the forest and the rocks.


‘Beautiful!’ she sighed. ‘Woof! Boof!’

Freja looked down the hill at Finnegan, lolloping back and forth between the grapevines. He barked and snapped, his eyes boggling with excitement. Every now and then, he stopped to sniff at a rock, growl at a dandelion or lick a leaf. Two rows away, a grapevine shook, then spat out a long, gangly body. Tobias tumbled along the ground, doing a complete somersault before coming to a halt. Dazed, he sat on the sharp little rocks, legs splayed out in front of him. His clothes were tattered and twisted. His old-fashioned motoring cap and goggles dangled from his neck. And his hair was a nest of twigs, leaves and his own tangled curls. An orange-and-black butterfly fluttered about Tobias’ head for a moment, then landed on one of the protruding twigs. Freja giggled. Tobias stood up. His green eyes darted back and forth across the vineyard. He tugged at his ears. Not a good idea, as they stuck out a little more than was normal at the best of times. Tugging could only make things worse. ‘Woof! Boof!’ The dog leapt up above the grapevines three rows over and vanished once more. ‘Aha!’ roared Tobias. ‘Found you! Wretched villain!’ Finnegan popped up again, this time one row closer.


‘Aha!’ Tobias set off down the slope at a cracking pace, knees pumping, arms flailing. Then, as abruptly as he’d started, he stopped. He crouched, hands poised for grabbing, then dived beneath a grapevine. Leaves, mutterings and howls of anguish flew into the air until, finally, Tobias reappeared, dragging the enormous hound. ‘Woof! Boof! Ooooow!’ ‘Yes! Yes! I know!’ Tobias groaned. ‘You’re sick of being crammed into the sidecar, day after day. And I agree. It’s been a jolly long journey from Rome, across Italy and into France. Two whole weeks. But we’re almost there now. And when we arrive, you can run about the streets and the olive groves, chasing lizards and birds and imaginary rabbits to your heart’s desire.’ The breeze shifted and blew through a nearby oak. Leaves rustled. Freja looked towards the village once more. ‘Beautiful,’ she sighed. Tobias carried Finnegan up the hill, the dog’s enormous grey body and long hairy legs sticking out awkwardly all over. By the time they reached the motorcycle, Tobias’ face was red and sweaty, his hair glistening with dog slobber. Finnegan was grinning with satisfaction. ‘Ready to roll, old chap?’ Tobias wheezed. Freja nodded and climbed back into the sidecar. Tobias plonked Finnegan in front of her. ‘Stay!’ he commanded.


‘Boof!’ replied Finnegan. He snapped at the air just millimetres from Tobias’ bottom as he walked around the front of the motorcycle. ‘Cheeky!’ scolded Freja. Tobias kick-started the motorcycle. Gravel spun out from behind the back wheel and they lurched onto the road. ‘To Claviers!’ shouted Tobias. ‘Look out for that telegraph pole!’ cried Freja. ‘Woof!’ barked Finnegan. And the motorcycle backfired with a bang!


CHAPTER 2 A new start … again

The girl, the dog and the writer chugged into the hilltop village of Claviers at one o’clock. The streets were deserted. They drove past a church, a village square with a shabby little circus tent, rows of shuttered houses, shady plane trees and a small shop — all without seeing a soul. Doors were closed. Curtains hung limp in their windows. Cats and dogs had vanished. Tobias pulled up beside a pétanque court and consulted his map. ‘Tobby?’ began Freja. ‘Are you sure this is it?’ Tobias smiled and nodded. ‘But there’s nobody here,’ she said. ‘Do you think Claviers has been deserted?’ What a wonderful thought! A town without people! A whole village to themselves!


Until four months ago, Freja had spent most of her life living in the remote regions of the Arctic. Her mother was none other than world-renowned zoologist Clementine Peachtree. Freja and Clementine had spent ten months of every year living amongst wild animals — seals, wolves, musk oxen, bears, moose, hares — but rarely came into contact with humans. When they did venture into the world of people, Freja had found it confusing. People were strange, intolerant, demanding … terrifying. Children, especially, frightened her. One week at a regular school, three years ago, had taught Freja much about loneliness and embarrassment, and very little about friendship. She simply did not fit in. She knew everything about the dancing routines of Norwegian bees, but nothing about the latest programs on television. She knew how to stalk through a forest, undetected by wolves, but couldn’t work out how to dress for a regular day in the playground. She knew all the dos and don’ts of snorkelling with walruses, but didn’t know the first thing about a game of chasies. She felt like a spotted seal trying to fit in amidst a colony of puffins. She grew quieter and more timid than ever. Clementine saw her misery and withdrew her at the end of the first week. The Arctic wilds were to be her classroom from then on. And they’d provided her with a marvellous education. But four months ago, Clementine had fallen ill. Suddenly, she’d developed a need for Swiss doctors, not


Arctic breezes, and their world had changed overnight. Freja was sent to live with Tobias Appleby, the absent- minded crime writer, at his cottage in Hampshire. Within weeks, a strange turn of events had taken them to Rome. New places. New people. A whole new life. And it had worked out just fine in the end. With Tobias and Finnegan by her side, Freja had made wonderful friends. Mostly adults, but there was also a monkey, an Italian greyhound and a flock of gossiping pigeons. Now, here they were, starting out all over again. Still without Clementine. Another place. Another country. Another gaggle of new people. ‘And, really,’ Freja muttered, ‘I have no-one to blame but myself.’ But now, as Freja gazed back along the deserted street once more, she felt a glimmer of hope. ‘Is Claviers a ghost town?’ she asked. ‘Have all the people run away to live somewhere else?’ Tobias chuckled. ‘Absolutely not, old chap! This is a vibrant little village. We have simply arrived in the middle of sieste . Behind each and every one of those doors lies a person with a tummy full of rabbit stew and almond tart, snoozing, dreaming, digesting, snoring, until it is time to return to school or work at two o’clock.’ Freja looked back down the street and frowned. ‘Snoring?’ she asked. ‘ And digesting. They will all have eaten a great deal at midday,’ added Tobias. ‘The French do like a large lunch.’


‘Boof!’ said Finnegan at the mention of lunch. He licked Freja’s nose. ‘ Sieste ,’ sighed Freja. It wasn’t quite as satisfying as living in a ghost town, but at least there’d be an hour or two each day when she could roam about in peace and quiet. Tobias folded the map and stuck it back inside his jacket. ‘Forward-ho!’ he cried and gave full throttle. The motorcycle roared around the next corner and, for one exhilarating moment, the wheel of the sidecar lifted off the ground. They zoomed past the front of an ancient stone chapel, then rattled and bounced down a cobbled street. Freja closed her eyes and clenched her teeth to stop herself from biting her tongue. Then, as suddenly as they’d started, they screeched to a halt and Tobias sang, ‘Home, sweet home!’ The girl, the dog and the writer stood side by side, staring upward. ‘Four storeys!’ cried Freja, her eyes shining. ‘Four skinny storeys! Stone walls. Faded grey shutters. Look! That one’s all wonky, its hinge rusted and ragged. And the wisteria climbs all the way to the balcony on the top floor! I do love purple flowers, Tobby!’ Freja gazed up and down the street. It was wobbly and narrow, barely wide enough for a car to pass. The cobbles were worn to a shine from centuries of


traffic — feet, wagons, barrows and bikes. Tall thin houses, all joined together, lined one side of the street, a high stone wall the other. Grey-green leaves peeped above the top of the wall. ‘We’re right on the edge of town.’ Freja smiled, the sides of her eyes crinkling with joy. ‘Hugged by an olive grove. Trees winking and waving at us from across the street!’ ‘You like it?’ asked Tobias. ‘It’s all ours, you know. I bought it over the phone! Our very own French home.’ Freja reached out and squeezed Tobias’ hand. ‘Thank you, Tobias. It’s lovely. Not at all scary or civilised or too perfect for a mad writer, a silly dog and a strange girl. Quite different from a real house in a proper town. And if we can just manage to keep away from all the people …’ But at that very moment, the sound of a turning lock ripped through her joy. Freja looked across at the front door of the adjoining house and watched it open, slowly, ominously, just a crack.


CHAPTER 3 The house and its boy

The door of the adjoining house opened, just a crack. Freja slipped in behind Tobias and Finnegan. She cast a sideways glance at the motorcycle and sidecar. It was large and solid and less than two metres away. She could duck behind it in a jiffy, should the need arise. The urge to hide hadn’t struck for months, now. And really, at ten, Freja was far too old to be doing such a thing. But it didn’t hurt to be prepared. In case of an emergency. In case the person behind the door was large and loud and terrifying. Freja stared, her eyes wide, her throat tight. ‘People,’ she muttered and grabbed a comforting handful of the fur on Finnegan’s back. The crack at the front door widened and a chubby, little hand reached around the edge. ‘Boof!’ barked Finnegan.


The door flew open and a small boy with dark brown hair and even darker brown eyes jumped out onto the stone step. ‘A horse!’ He spoke in English with a breathy French accent and a full-bodied lisp. ‘I knew there was an English writer and a girl moving in next door, but I did not know there’d be a shaggy grey horse!’ Finnegan bounded forward. He towered over the boy, grinning and dribbling on his head. ‘A dribbling horse!’ The boy squealed with delight. He reached up and wrapped his arms around Finnegan’s neck. Freja smiled, despite her fear of children. ‘He’s not a horse,’ she whispered. ‘He’s a dog — an overgrown Irish wolfhound called Finnegan.’ ‘Finnegan!’ gasped the boy. ‘I love him! Bonjour , doggy! Welcome to Claviers! My name is Pippin Perrier, and I’m five and three-quarters, and I will be your best friend forever and ever and ever!’ He grabbed Finnegan by the ears, stretched up on tippy-toes and kissed him on both sides of his muzzle. ‘Mwah! Mwah!’ Finnegan sneezed and licked Pippin’s face thoroughly in return. The deal was sealed. ‘Tobias Appleby at your service!’ Tobias stepped forward, chuckling, and shook the boy’s hand. ‘And this is Freja Peachtree, my … my …’ He scratched his head and stared up into the clear blue sky. ‘My favourite person in the whole wide world!’ Pippin jumped off the step and bounced across the cobblestones. Grabbing Freja by the ears, he pulled her


head forward and planted a kiss on one cheek, then the other. ‘Mwah! Mwah!’ Just as he had with Finnegan. ‘I like your hair,’ he said. ‘It pokes out all over like the bedsprings of an old mattress.’ Freja reached up and pulled at one of her wild and woolly curls. She blushed. She had never spoken to a little child before. Children her own age were scary, but this boy was funny. Like a friendly bear cub, or a playful seal pup. Pippin smiled up at her, his eyelashes fluttering. Freja smiled back and the tightness in her throat slipped away. ‘Do you like my hair?’ asked Pippin. ‘Yes,’ said Freja. ‘It’s very tidy.’ ‘Do you like my name?’ he asked. ‘Pippin is the name of a very famous French king, which almost makes me a king, doesn’t it?’ ‘Of course it does,’ agreed Freja. ‘It is because I am very smart, and Maman and I lived in London for a year,’ Pippin explained. ‘I hated London. It was cold and wet, the food was disgusting and the streets stank like an old sock that has been caught in a drain. Maman hated London too. She worked in a theatre and they didn’t pay her. So we came home to France, very poor and very grumpy but very good at speaking like the fancy people in English ‘Do you like my English?’ he asked. ‘Absolutely,’ said Freja. ‘It’s very good.’ ‘And abundant!’ added Tobias.


plays and books and poems. Now Maman lives in Paris and works in a place called the Moulin Rouge, where she dances all night, so I live here with Grand- Mère because little boys should not be left alone at night in Paris or anywhere else for that matter and I miss Maman terribly, but she will come home for a little holiday soon, and then I will hug her and kiss her and tell her how much I love her.’ ‘I’m so sorry,’ sighed Freja. She knew how bad it felt when things went wrong with mothers. Pippin, however, did not seem too concerned, despite his words. He’d just noticed that his shirt was crooked, buttoned into the wrong holes, and was fixing things up. Tobias pulled a key out from beneath a potted geranium and dangled it in the air. ‘Time to explore our new home, old chap!’ He unlocked the door, ducked to avoid the low lintel and dived inside. ‘Our boxes have arrived from Rome!’ Tobias’ voice drifted out into the street. ‘They’re all here, safe and sound, stacked into a tower —’ There was a thump and a yelp. Tobias hopped past the window, clutching his foot in his hands. ‘Boof!’ snapped Finnegan, and he bounded inside. Freja turned to Pippin, expecting him to deliver a breathy and long-winded farewell. Instead, he slipped his chubby, little hand into hers and escorted her inside. ‘I know this house well!’ cried Pippin. ‘Grand-Mère used to clean for Monsieur Martin. He was a chef in a fancy restaurant in Fayence.’ He dropped Freja’s hand


and started pointing. ‘The bathroom is through that door and this is the busy room — for laundry and shopping baskets, bins and tools, boxes and firewood, bicycles and donkeys.’ ‘Donkeys?’ Freja frowned at him. ‘Really?!’ ‘No,’ confessed Pippin. ‘But it would be good, don’t you think, to have a donkey living downstairs?’ Freja nibbled her lip while she thought about it. ‘Yes,’ she decided. ‘You could run downstairs, jump on the donkey’s back and trot straight out the door.’ Finnegan disappeared through a door at the back of the room and, soon, they could hear him slurping water. ‘He likes to drink from the toilet,’ said Freja. ‘He could drink from the bidet, if he likes!’ suggested Pippin. ‘What’s a bidet?’ asked Freja. ‘It’s French,’ said Pippin proudly. ‘It looks like a toilet, but it’s for washing your derrière … or your squirrel.’ ‘Squirrel?’ Freja wrinkled her nose. Tobias chuckled. ‘Boxes … firewood … a donkey … a squirrel …’ ‘And a duck!’ squealed Pippin, jumping up and down. ‘We could have a pretty white duck living here with the donkey and his name could be Zacharie and he could lay us some apples!’ Suddenly, he froze. His eyes grew wide. ‘ Apples! I almost forgot! Grand-Mère has left you a surprise in the kitchen. Come! Come!


I will show you!’ He disappeared up the stone staircase to the first floor. Tobias shrugged. Freja giggled and they trotted up the steps. The kitchen was plain and old-fashioned. There was an open fireplace, a sink and a stove along one side wall, a pale green dresser along the other. A large oak table stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by ten mismatched chairs. Ten chairs , thought Freja. I don’t suppose we’ll ever need so many. Pippin jumped out from behind the dresser, an apple tart in his hands. ‘Ta-da!’ he cried. ‘Grand-Mère baked it this morning. For you! And inside the dresser, there are some more good things to eat so you won’t be hungry on your first night here — half a dozen eggs, two baguettes, a pot of honey made by the bees down in Monsieur Delahaye’s lavender field, a bag of dried figs and a little wheel of cheese.’ He screwed up his face. ‘The cheese is very stinky. It smells like something that has been sneezed from a goat’s nostril. But it tastes delicious, like you have died and gone to heaven.’ Pippin beamed at Freja, his brown eyes warm and welcoming and full of joy. Freja’s breath caught. For she realised that, already, she’d made a friend. And it had been as easy as pie. ‘As easy as apple tart,’ she whispered, running her hand along the edge of the oak table. There would, it seemed, be one less chair up for grabs.


‘Delicious!’ cried Tobias, accepting the tart and giving it a good sniff. ‘What a fabulous granny you have! We’ll pop by later and thank her.’ Pippin’s eyes boggled. ‘No, Tobias Happleby! Do not come over later. Grand-Mère is always in a mood most horrible after her sieste . She wakes with a sore head and aching bones. She is as cranky as a cat with no cream. As grouchy as a fiddler without his bow. As cross as a chicken that has sat too hard on her egg and cracked it.’ ‘Hmmm.’ Tobias ran his hand through his hair. ‘It sounds like your granny is a kind cook but a peevish waker! Well, you must thank her for us, King Pippin.’ Pippin smiled and beckoned them onward and upward. The second storey consisted of two long narrow bedrooms, side by side, each with a window that looked down onto the street. Freja stuck her head out one window while Pippin jumped up and down on the bed. Tobias poked his head out the other window. ‘Hello, old chap!’ he cried. ‘Jolly fine view!’ From here, they could see over the top of the stone wall on the other side of the street. The olive grove stretched down the hillside, its grey-green leaves shining silver in the bright afternoon sunlight. Freja inhaled deeply and smiled. It felt so good to be back amidst nature once more. ‘ Bonjour! ’ Pippin’s head popped out beside Freja’s. ‘The next window along is mine!’ he gasped. ‘If I stick


my head out my bedroom window, we can all wave. Let’s do it every morning when we wake up and every night just before we go to bed! We can be the three best friends ever. Like the three musketeers. Like the three little kittens who lost their mittens. Like —’ ‘Pippin!’ A thin, grey-haired woman appeared in the street below. She scowled up at Pippin, hands on hips, and made a silent threat with her eyes. Suddenly, she dropped her hands to her side. Her face grew soft and warm and she sang, ‘ Bonjour , Monsieur Appleby. Bonjour , sweet girl. Welcome to Claviers!’ Tobias had just opened his mouth to return the greeting when the woman’s hands shot back up to her hips and she roared. Rapid, threatening French spilt from her lips and she jabbed a bony finger up at Pippin. She finished with an ominous slap to her own bottom, stomped into her house and slammed the front door. Pippin gasped, ‘ Aie aie aie! ’ He pulled his head inside and ran back down the two flights of stairs as fast as his chubby, little legs could carry him. He popped out the front door, stopped and called back up to them, ‘ Au revoir . Don’t forget to wave at me out your window at bedtime tonight! We will be like the three blind mice, the three —’ A bony hand reached out from the next house along, grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and dragged him inside. The door slammed and Pippin Perrier was gone.


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Text copyright © Katrina Nannestad 2018 Illustrations copyright © Cheryl Orsini 2018

The rights of Katrina Nannestad and Cheryl Orsini to be identified as the author and illustrator of this work have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 . This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 , no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher. HarperCollins Publishers Level 13, 201 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia Unit D1, 63 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand A 53, Sector 57, Noida, UP, India 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF, United Kingdom 2 Bloor Street East, 20th floor, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8, Canada 195 Broadway, New York NY 10007, USA

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