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Morlvera

chapter one

The Adventuress

The Olympic Toy Emporium had a large shop window in an important West End street. No one called it the more familiar and exciting name of toyshop. Its toys were incredible but not toys that children really liked. For example, the animal toys looked like scientific models and not friendly companions to take to bed.

One of the dolls in the window looked like a model in a fashion magazine. She wore a skirt and leopard-skin accessories.

Unlike a model in a fashion magazine, this doll had a terrible expression on her face. She seemed to have a really horrible character and you could imagine hundreds of stories about her in which she had unworthy ambitions and a great desire for money.

As a matter of fact, two poor children, Emmeline, aged ten and Bert, aged seven, had stopped on their way to St James’s Park. They did not like her much because she was rich and they were poor, and because she had such a terrible expression on her face. Emmeline gave the doll a terrible reputation; she got her ideas from the conversations of her mother’s friends about romantic novels.

‘She is a bad one,’ declared Emmeline, ‘and her husband hates her.’

‘He hits her a lot,’ said Bert with enthusiasm.

‘No, he doesn’t, because he’s dead. She poisoned him slowly so that no one would know. Now she wants to marry a lord with lots and lots of money. He’s already got a wife, but she’s going to poison her too.’

‘She’s a bad one,’ said Bert with growing hostility.

‘Her mother hates her,’ continued Emmeline, ‘because she’s so sarcastic. She’s greedy too. If there is fish for dinner, she eats her own share and her little girl’s share too, and her little girl is delicate.’

‘She had a little boy once,’ said Bert, ‘but she pushed him into the water when nobody was looking.’

‘No, she didn’t,’ said Emmeline, ‘she sent him away to live with some poor people, and they treat him very badly.’

‘What’s her name?’ asked Bert, thinking that such an interesting personality should have a name.

‘Her name?’ said Emmeline, thinking hard. ‘Her name is Morlvera.’ She thought this seemed like the name of an adventuress in a film.

‘She hasn’t paid for the clothes she is wearing, and she will never pay for them; she thinks that the rich lord will pay for them, but he won’t. He has already given her lots of jewels.’

‘He won’t pay for the clothes,’ said Bert with conviction.

It seems that there is a limit to the weak good nature of a rich lord.

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