Ruth and Aggie were bathing the children. Charlotte was playing in the tin bath and Clementine kept splashing water all over the place. They were both laughing and seemed to be having a great time. Clementine even smiled at Ruth.
It was odd; thought Ruth, they seemed almost like normal children. Perhaps my worries are over-exaggerated.
But then Charlotte turned and stared at her with those strange golden eyes.
“Out,” she demanded.
And once again a shiver went up Ruth’s spine. There was definitely something not right about the twins. She turned to Aggie, thinking she might ask her mother-in-law for her opinion. The twins always seemed more comfortable with her then they did with Ruth.
Before she could speak a noise came from the lane outside and Spirit began barking loudly.
“What is aw’ that commotion?” asked Aggie.
“It sounds like an Automobile,” said Ruth.
“Whit-for would such a thing be doing in our back lane?” asked Aggie.
And then the sound came again. It was definitely a car hooter. Ruth sighed. What would an automobile be doing in the back lane? It could only mean one thing; John must be back from the racecourse, and this must be his latest daft scheme. No doubt he had won it in a bet, or a card game.
“We better go out and see what this is all about,” said Ruth. “Come on girls, let’s get you dressed and see what Daddy has been up to.”
“Aye, nae doubt he’s up to some clamframjamfry,” said Aggie.
Ruth had no idea what a clamframjamfry was, but she was certain Aggie was right. In all the time she’d know John, there had never been a time when he had not been up to some kind of nonsense.
Ruth pushed open the door of the coach-house, and went out into Aggie’s little cottage garden, watching gingerly for Spirit. John’s dog was not averse to giving Ruth the odd bite on the ankles. Ruth swore that dog was three parts greyhound, four parts lurcher and one hundred percent hell-hounds. Fortunately, Spirit was not there.
“Come and look at this,” shouted John, and parped the horn of his new car excitedly. In the lane, stood an automobile. Ruth was no expert, but this car looked very sporty, very expensive and very much like it had seen better days.
“What is that?” she asked.
“It’s a Humber Invicta Serpentine Silent Six Super,” said John.
“Oh,” said Ruth, and for some reason that made her feel uneasy.
“Yes,” said John, “some people just call it a H.I.S.S.S.S.”
Somehow that did not make Ruth fell any better and she felt even more uneasy when she saw the serpent emblem on the bonnet.
“Let’s take it out for a spin,” said John.
“Alright,” agreed Ruth. “You won’t go too fast will you?”
“Of course not,” said John.
John jumped into the driver seat and Aggie took the twins and climbed into the back of the car, but when Ruth went to sit in the front passenger seat there was a problem. There was Spirit sitting in the seat as if he owned the car.
“Come on Spirit,” said Ruth nervously, but Spirit turned and glared with his red eyes.
Ruth shrank back.
“Come on Ruth,” said John, “get in.”
But Ruth certainly was not getting in the front seat with Spirit. There was no way she was getting anywhere near those slavering jaws.
“I’ll sit in the back with the twins,” said Ruth.
“Aw right,” said Aggie, and clambered out and went to the passenger door.
To be fair, Spirit did try and resist, but it was no good. Aggie with her Amazonian strength was quite a different proposition to delicate little Ruth. He growled and raised his hackles defending his position. Aggie paid no notice.
“You git oot,” she said and fetched the poor hell-hound such a clout around the head then grabbed it by the nape and threw it into the garden.
“Stay,” she shouted at Spirit. And Spirit new better than to argue. He ‘d come out the worst of it with Aggie before. Brooms, umbrellas, boots and worst of all her massive fists; he’d learned the hard way to keep out the road of all of them.
“Right John,” said Aggie, “Drive on.”
John threw the car into gear and speed off.
“I thought you said you wouldn’t go too fast,” shouted Ruth.
“This isn’t fast,” said John. “I’ll show you what she can really do if you like.”
“No thank you,” called Ruth, raising her voice above the roar of the engine.
John drove the car at what seemed like breakneck speed through the streets of London.
“Look over there,” he would announce periodically, “There’s Cleopatra’s needle,” or “That’s Alexandria Palace up on the hill.”
But before Ruth could see the sights the car would have whisked past.
This isn’t much fun, she thought, but at least the twins are quiet. Charlotte and Clementine seemed undisturbed by the journey. In fact, it seemed like they were both sleeping. How odd, Ruth said to herself, well at least the car is good for something.
Aggie seemed much more comfortable in the front.
“This is braw fun,” she said, as John peeped his horn at a cart and sent the horses skittering away.
Yes, but very dangerous, Ruth thought.
Eventually, and much to Ruth’s relief, the car turned a corner and pulled up right in front of their cottage.
“This is a fine motor,” said Aggie. “But whit dae aw they buttons do?” She pointed to banks and banks of switches in front of her.
“Don’t touch them, Mother,” shouted John.
But it was too late, Aggie flicked a big red switch in front of her, and the roof of the car slid back, John’s seat flew up into the air on a gigantic coiled spring sending him sprawling through the air out of the car and into the garden where he landed right on top of Spirit. Poor Spirit, he didn’t seem to be having a very good day.
“Och, I see,” said Aggie, “that must be the ejector seat.”
The next episode we find out just where John got the car and why. Ruth and the Family head off on a road trip. Spirit has a disappointment and the twins continue to be weird, starey-eyed and mostly silent.